WASHINGTON (B)--Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman warned he will "not be able to recommend" that President Clinton sign the fiscal 2001 agriculture spending bill if more money is not appropriated for such concerns as food safety, combating invasive species, disaster assistance, biotechnology research, fighting industry concentration and more.
The money Congress is planning to make available for agriculture spending in fiscal 2001 is sorely deficient, Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman told the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on agriculture in a seven-page letter dated Sept. 20.
Glickman told Rep. Joe Skeen, R-NM, "USDA has downsized by almost 20% during the past five years and we simply cannot deliver programs without adequate resources."
In a plea for more money to give farmers and ranchers who suffered weather-related losses this year, Glickman told Skeen he wants to meet with appropriators to discuss increased funding.
"I recently traveled to Texas and to other areas and I am convinced that the combination of drought in the South, wildfires in the West and a number of other circumstances throughout the nation require us to ensure that this bill includes sufficient disaster relief for farmers," Glickman said.
The Secretary of Agriculture also said that neither the House nor Senate versions of the fiscal 2001 farm budget provide enough money for USDA to fight concentration in livestock sectors.
A General Accounting Office report criticized USDA recently for not protecting small hog and cattle producers from unfair market practices by livestock buyers and meat packers. USDA promised to change some of its ways, according to the GAO report, but Glickman claimed in the letter to Skeen that the situation will not improve without more money.
"Further," Glickman said, "the House bill provides only $3 million for the Agricultural Marketing Service to carry out the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act of 1999. Full funding of $5.9 million as proposed in the budget is needed to implement the program in late autumn."
There is also not enough money budgeted for USDA's Foreign Agriculture Service, Glickman said.
Complaints continue to flood into USDA that there is not adequate service from the department's overseas offices, Glickman said, predicting the situation will worsen if funding is not increased.
"Funding at the House level, which straight-lines agency funding for the fourth consecutive year, would likely result in further overseas office closures and employment cutbacks," the secretary said. "We need adequate resources in the FAS to do the necessary work in this area and to support the implementation of the Global Food for Education Initiative pilot program--that will open a new outlet for U.S. farm products while providing critically needed nutritious foods to children overseas."
Furthermore, government research into genetically modified farm commodities is another import issue for U.S. agriculture, Glickman said. He stressed that current public controversy over the technology should not prevent Congress from giving USDA the funds needed to aid new developments. Indeed, the controversy is proof that more money is needed for campaigns to keep consumers informed, according to the secretary.