House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) today spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives in opposition to the Farm Bill conference report that would expand taxpayer-funded government subsidies and force taxpayers to fund a “Trail to Nowhere” land swap in Vermont, a $250 million earmark for “forest fish” in Montana, and a $170 million earmark for the salmon industry secured in part by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). A transcript and video of the speech follow:
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“Let me thank my colleague for yielding. Mr. Speaker and my colleagues, I’ve been around the House Ag Committee nearly eighteen years. The chairman and I came together, we’re good friends and so is the Ranking Republican, Mr. Goodlatte – and I know they’ve worked hard to produce this bill. But clearly most Americans think that Washington is broken and this Farm Bill is another example of that. I know there is some reform in this bill, but when you begin to step back and look at the bill, we didn’t get anywhere near the reform that Americans would expect. At a time when we’ve got the highest commodity prices that we’ve seen in a generation, you would think that we would take a slightly different approach to the Farm Bill. But unfortunately because of the process, because of the negotiations, it didn’t happen.
“I just want to point out what I would describe as the most egregious part of this. I’m going to have, I or one of my designees will have a motion to recommit this conference report. And it’s no secret that politicians have traditionally abused the Farm Bill for their own pet projects. And if you look at some of the pet projects, there are three that I am going to single out in our motion to recommit.
“One, it would strip out the ‘Trail to Nowhere,’ a land swap that was airdropped into the bill by the senior Senator from Vermont. The language requires the U.S. Forest Service to sell portions of the Green Mountain National Forest exclusively to Vermont’s Bromley Ski Resort. And believe it or not, to accommodate this obscure demand, portions of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail may have to be moved. Now we’re actually going to move the Appalachian Scenic Trail, possibly have to move it because we’re going to sell this land to a ski resort. I don’t think taxpayers ought to have to bankroll this boondoggle.
“Secondly, our motion will strip out a $170 million earmark for the salmon industry that was airdropped into this bill – in secret. The provision was never considered in the House, never considered in the Senate. $170 million to bail out salmon fisheries. Now you should also note that after Hurricane Katrina when the entire gulf coast fishing industry was annihilated, they only got $126 million from the federal government to fix their fisheries. I don’t think taxpayers ought to be required to put up the money for this, for an airdropped earmark that was brought into this bill, never having been considered by either body.
“Finally, our proposal would strip out a $250 million earmark secured by the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, the gentleman from Montana. This earmark – incredibly enough – is targeted for forests that house fish. Yes, we’re going to target a forest that houses fish. Yes, incredibly what we would call ‘forest fish.’ Only one forest in the country happens to have fish in it and it just happens to be based in Montana, located in Montana where the Senator is from. I don’t think the taxpayers ought to have to pay $250 million to take care of ‘forest fish.’
“Listen, the American people are struggling with a high cost of living, whether it’s the cost of gasoline, the cost of food, trying to make sure they’ve got health care, concerned about whether they have a job tomorrow, or able to afford their home mortgage. And here we are moving a Farm Bill that has earmarks in it that just don’t pass the straight face test.
“And so I would ask my colleagues if you think that this is a wise use of taxpayer funds, you can go ahead and vote against it. But I would invite my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, if you think that taxpayer funds could be spent more wisely, vote for the motion to recommit and let’s make this bill a better bill. We can do better.”
NOTE: In a letter sent yesterday to his Republican colleague, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Boehner further detailed his opposition to the Farm Bill, noting, “I don’t believe it is sufficient for House Republican members to simply ‘vote their districts’ on this bill. I believe they should also vote their consciences, and cast their votes in a manner consistent with the small government principles upon which our party was founded.” He continued, “The farm bill also extends flawed policies that keep American farmers dependent on government subsidies and discourage other countries from opening their markets to American farm exports. This approach doesn’t help American farmers; it hurts them. We shouldn’t support it.”