Providing for Further Consideration of H.R. Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018

Floor Speech

Date: May 17, 2018
Location: Washington, DC


I think that the gentlewoman from Illinois speaks on behalf of a lot of Members in this Chamber. Nobody wants to see a trade war. Nobody is advantaged by a trade war.

I think so many of the provisions that are in this underlying bill, Mr. Speaker, H.R. 2, are designed to create more stability for farm families.

The gentlewoman is absolutely right when she references the instability trade war conversations create. So much more important, then, that we come together now to provide that safety net and that stability that is included here in H.R. 2.

I appreciate the gentlewoman's encouragement that we get to the other end of these trade negotiations, and I do believe that is something that we all share.

Mr. Speaker, the gentleman just spoke about one of the amendments that is going to be offered today. In total, there are 51 different amendments that have been made in order both in the rule that we did yesterday and this rule that we hope that our colleagues will support today, 51 different amendments proffered by Members of this Chamber to try to make this bill better. If we pass this rule today, we will be able to move to the underlying bill for consideration of those amendments.


Mr. WOODALL. He is a relatively new Member to this Chamber, but he has been fighting for his constituents since he arrived, and I admire him for that.

There are lot of men and women in this Chamber who fit that bill, Mr. Speaker. I wish we spent more time celebrating those good public servants among us.

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure at this time to yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from Maine (Mr. Poliquin), a gentleman who fits exactly that mold. The gentleman from Maine has come time and time again to this floor, to committees, every single opportunity he has, to build bipartisan support, to work together with his colleagues, to work not just on behalf of the citizens of Maine, but on behalf of all Americans. He really is a model for energy and partnership on something that everyone in this Chamber would agree on.

The farm bill is a little different this year than what we have seen in years past. We would ordinarily have more bipartisan support here on the floor. We got sideways on a couple of issues early on in the process, but the arguments that we are hearing aren't different than the arguments we traditionally hear in a farm bill, as if we are pitting those families in need of food against those families who produce the food. We are not.

This bill is H.R. 2 for a reason, Mr. Speaker. A lot of folks don't understand how bill numbers get handed out in this institution. They get handed out by order of priority.

H.R. 1 was the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. That bill has brought unemployment down to the lowest levels in my lifetime and economic growth to the highest levels we have seen in decades.

H.R. 2 is the farm bill, because if you want to know who benefits from American farm policy, it is anybody who eats--anybody who eats.

I tell folks, Mr. Speaker, we don't need to give every child a laptop. We need to send every child on a mission trip around the globe to see how other families live, to see how other countries do it. We are so blessed in this country, and we take it for granted oftentimes.

For example, I can put up charts about the distribution of farm policy until the cows come home, but the largest 15 percent of farms in this country produce almost 90 percent of all the food.

I will say that again. Those folks who are doing it bigger and better than anybody else, those 15 percent of farmers produce almost 90 percent of American food. And I will tell you something, Mr. Speaker, we can't afford to lose those 15 percent of farmers.

What keeps food in this country available and affordable is a consistent farm policy, which is why, time and time again, Republicans and Democrats come together from across rural America to try to provide certainty to American agriculture.

It is the largest part of the Georgia economy, Mr. Speaker: agriculture. That is true of so many districts, so many States across this land.

This ought to be a partnership. It is not today, and I regret that. We are going to have opportunities to make that change going forward, but just understand, for folks who are here seeing this debate for the very first time, go back and see the farm bill debate from 5 years ago. You will see the same accusations. You will see the same recriminations. You will see the same fear and scare tactics used. Then you will see a huge bipartisan vote because this bill is so important to so many Americans.

My colleague has gone through some really challenging times in her community, and this Chamber has stood with her in those times. She has been a great advocate for her community in the face of some really extraordinary disasters.

We can make accusations on this floor all we like, but we could also spend some time bragging about those things that bring us together. There are already disaster provisions in law--disaster provisions that provide specifically disaster SNAP, for example, when communities are so hard-hit. We do have these conversations, we do have these concerns for one another and our communities, and we do work together to address those concerns.

We are not always successful, Mr. Speaker, but I promise you we are less successful when we don't work together than when we do.

My understanding--I don't sit on the Agriculture Committee, but my friends across the aisle do--is that not a single Democratic amendment was offered in committee.

It is my understanding--and, again, I don't sit on the committee. I don't mind being corrected. I won't be embarrassed at all to have the Record corrected. But my understanding is there were 5 hours of markup in the Agriculture Committee, and not one idea for improving the bill was offered.

Now, that is a legitimate, strategic position to take if folks want to take it, Mr. Speaker. I just don't understand it as someone who wants to get the job done and make a difference in a collaborative way on behalf of the American people.

This bill is getting better every single day. It has gotten better through every conversation. As you heard my friend from Washington say in his opening statement, so many farmers with real-world experience-- we heard yesterday from Members who have real-world labor and workforce development experience. This bill is getting better every time.

If we support the rule that we are discussing at this time, Mr. Speaker, it will make 31 additional amendments in order so that we can improve the bill even further.


Mr. WOODALL. I would be happy to answer the inquiry, or we could just leave it as an inquiry.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, we do have additional speakers remaining, and, of course, if we make this rule in order, if we pass this rule, we will have 31 different amendments and speakers coming down on each one of those as well.

Georgia is a rural State, like so many jurisdictions represented in this Chamber. Sometimes you have a big city in one part of the State and the rest of the State is rural. The conversations we have in Georgia are often not Republicans against Democrats politically; it is Atlanta against the rest of the State politically.

Folks often don't connect the dots between the food that they are buying on the shelf at Kroger being directly related to whether or not farmers are producing that food in the field.

We have made huge strides in terms of trying to bring more fresh produce not just into our school systems but into our local farmers markets, huge strides into making sure that electronic benefits aren't just able to be used at the local convenience store but are able to be used in farmers markets so that higher quality produce can end up on families' tables.

Again, Mr. Speaker, we can find disagreement in every bill that comes to the floor, but we can also find progress. There is a lot of progress in this bill. We will support this rule, we will get to the underlying bill, and we will spend the rest of the day discussing exactly that.

Mr. Speaker, we feel very passionately about issues on this floor. I want to give my colleague from Alabama an opportunity to retract the accusation that this is a mean-spirited and cruel bill. I know the men and women who serve on the Agriculture Committee, and they don't have a mean-spirited or cruel bone in their body. They care about farmers, and they care about families.

We can argue about whether or not if you are a working aged, able- bodied, childless man in this country whether or not we ought to try to get you a job while you are collecting Federal benefits. We can talk about that. I don't think that is mean-spirited at all. I don't think that is cruel at all. I think that is exactly what we ought to be doing to lift families up out of poverty.

But I would say to my colleagues with their passion--which I know is heartfelt--feeding hungry children is a shared priority, and we see that every single day in the bills that are passed here; and we do damage to this institution and we do damage to the very honest and needed debates we have in this Chamber when we characterize one another in ways that we know are not accurate.

I know the men and women on the Agriculture Committee. I know why they chose to serve on that committee. I believe in the work they are doing. I regret that we are having this disagreement today, but we don't need to question each other's motives or integrity in order to make this debate of value.


Mr. WOODALL. We were once Budget Committee mates together back in the day.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman from Michigan. He actually spent a good deal of his time just the other day in a Budget Committee hearing trying to help get us some bipartisan solutions.

He got grilled by both the Republicans and the Democrats. Everybody wanted their ounce of Michigan flesh in that day. But at the end of that conversation--and I don't say this flippantly--I felt more optimistic about our coming together and doing some very difficult infrastructure investments in this country than I did when I walked into that room.

Those things don't happen without people investing the kind of time and energy that Representative Kildee has invested over his career. I want to tell the gentleman how much I appreciate that.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I would advise my friend I am prepared to close when he is.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my friends on the Agriculture Committee for the work they did on this bill. It is not easy to do big pieces of legislation. We do a farm bill every 5 years. It is always a hard thing to do, and my friends on the Agriculture Committee have taken the slings and arrows. You have heard the accusations that have been made just here on the floor today.

The unemployment rate in this country, Mr. Speaker, is as low as it has ever been in my lifetime, and the number of childless, working-age men who are sitting it out is as high as it has ever been in my lifetime.

We can argue about how to care about people more, we can argue about how to love people more, but I will tell you, helping someone to find a job matters.

Historically, Mr. Speaker, it is one of those things we agree on. For whatever reason, we have made it the topic of something we are going to pretend to disagree on today.

There are more jobs available in this country than ever before. I think we owe it to families that haven't been able to connect themselves with that job market to help them to do better.

Mr. Speaker, so often, we talk about all the lawyers in Congress, all the lawyers who are bureaucrats, all the folks who are working on policy that they just don't understand. I want to close with where my colleague from Washington State began. Of course, he is a former agriculture commissioner from Washington State. He said this.

He said he is not the only farmer in this House. There are 20 farmers, ranchers, and producers serving here in the people's House: an almond farmer from central California, a blueberry farmer from Maine, a rancher from South Dakota, a cattleman from Kentucky, a rice farmer from Minnesota, and a hops farmer from the Yakima Valley in Washington State.

Mr. Speaker, this body really does reflect working Americans, folks out there trying to be the breadbasket to the world, trying to put fresh produce on the shelves for every American family to benefit from. This bill continues our commitment to serving the hungry, and it continues our commitment to being the finest agricultural production nation that this planet has ever seen.

Vote ``yes'' on this rule. Let's consider some amendments to make this bill even better, and then let's send it to the Senate and give the American people a bill they can be proud of.