Baldwin plans earmarks, Hoeven doesn’t
Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., said today she will open up the fiscal year 2022 agriculture appropriations process to “congressionally directed spending,” the term that Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., used Monday when he announced that the committee would use what most people call earmarks.
“We are looking at some potential changes to our process because of the return of congressionally directed spending,” Baldwin, who became chairwoman when the Democrats took over the Senate in January, told the North American Agricultural Journalists.
“I think that will be the main change between this coming year and prior years. There has been discussion at the staff level and at the member level on how it would be appropriate to move forward,” she said.
But Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., subcommittee ranking member and previous chairman, told the ag journalists that he will not use earmarks.
“Our caucus is not earmarking. I am not planning to,” Hoeven added. “I think we can work through the regular appropriations process. We can continue to meet the needs of our farmers and ranchers.”
Baldwin noted that she will hold a hearing Thursday focused on diversifying farm income and that the witnesses will not be government officials. Baldwin repeated Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s statements that almost 90% of farm families need off-farm income to survive.
“Some families do it because it is the right fit, but for too many it is necessary,” Baldwin said, adding that she doesn’t think people should have to work a separate job to be able to farm. Baldwin noted that she and Hoeven had organized the hearing together and said, that while USDA officials will come before the committee, she expects to hold other hearings with nongovernment witnesses.
Baldwin noted that she has reintroduced the Dairy Pride Act to require the Food and Drug Administration to enforce standards that food labeled as dairy products should be based on milk, but said it would be much easier if the FDA would enforce the regulations. The Dairy Pride Act, she said, would “protect dairy’s good name” and force the FDA to alert consumers that plant-based products are not nutritionally equivalent to dairy products.
Baldwin said Congress needs to pass by next week a bill that would give self-employed farmers more access to the Paycheck Protection Program before it expires in May.
Asked whether she would support the Biden administration’s budget proposal for a 20% increase in agricultural research funding, Baldwin said the increase is “doable” but that she has “some issues” with USDA’s need to “replenish its personnel” because of the loss of staff when the Trump administration moved the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture from Washington to Kansas City.
Baldwin said that since the University of Wisconsin is “a great land grant college,” she wants to make sure the research budget is “useful” to it and covers conventional and organic farms and specialty crops.
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