Rep. Austin Scott, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture, held a public hearing to review the impact of enforcement activities by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on specialty crop growers. Specifically, Subcommittee Members addressed growing concerns that DOL is using the "Hot Goods" provision under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) in an arbitrary manner against producers of perishable agricultural commodities without regard for the inevitable destruction of the product and significant economic hardship inflicted on farmers and their employees.
In Case You Missed It: Lucas Debates H.R. 2868 on the House Floor
Tamara Hinton (202) 225-0184
WASHINGTON – Today, Ranking Member Frank Lucas debated H.R. 2868, the Chemical and Drinking Water Security Act of 2009, on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. During the debate, Rep. Lucas argued that the bill would have a deep and negative impact on agriculture, and would ultimately lead to a scenario where input supplies will be limited, costs will sky-rocket, and U.S. food security and the livelihood of our farmers will be threatened.
The text of the speech is below.
"I rise in opposition to H.R. 2868, the so-called Chemical and Water Security Act of 2009 and request unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks.
"It no longer surprises me that the Democratic leadership is once again racing to impose more government mandates on our farmers, ranchers and small businesses without considering the economic impact of their actions.
"From cap and trade to food safety to soon health care –rushing ill-conceived, ill-timed legislation through Congress has shamefully become the norm around here.
"In renaming the bill from the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act to the Chemical and Water Security Act, I appreciate that the authors of the bill at least acknowledge that it has nothing to do with protecting our country from acts of terrorism. But, rather it has everything to do with pacifying the extreme environmental lobby.
"Some have said that agriculture should not be concerned about this legislation. Well, if that were true, then a coalition of agriculture groups, which includes the American Farm Bureau Federation, would not be circulating a letter to all members of Congress urging them to vote against it.
"Let me be clear: this bill will have a deep and negative impact on the agriculture industry.
"Under the current regulatory framework, which I would support to reauthorize, farmers would have an extension appropriate to the small risk they impose. Under those regulations, chemical facilities are treated fairly and work with the Department of Homeland Security in a cooperative manner to enhance site security.
"This legislation destroys that relationship.
"This legislation contains absolutely no authority for the Secretary of Homeland Security to grant extensions to farmers for the future.
"In fact, under this bill, there is no authority for the Secretary to provide for the appropriate, risk-based treatment of farmers, or any other disproportionately affected group, when it reissues its regulations.
"That’s not all – manufacturers and suppliers of agricultural inputs, like fertilizer and pesticides, will also not be exempt from the non-security related provisions of the bill. Such provisions will jeopardize the availability of those widely-used and lower cost agricultural inputs that are essential for agriculture production.
"In essence, this sets up a scenario where input supplies will be limited, costs will sky-rocket, and U.S. food security and the livelihood of our farmers will be threatened.
"Beyond devastating the agriculture industry, this bill does not provide any additional security against acts of terrorism, which is supposed to be its purpose.
"National security will actually be compromised since provisions in the bill would allow citizen lawsuits in the national and homeland security arena. The Department of Homeland Security has testified that these suits would result in the release of very sensitive security information through the legal process that would ultimately help terrorists.
"Even if many of these offensive provisions were removed from this legislation, we still have a problem in that for the first time, Democratic leaders will make a national security program inferior to state and local jurisdictions. This means that other government entities would be allowed to enact laws for political reasons that could ultimately defeat the purpose of the federal program.
"Mr. Chairman, H.R. 2868 is an irresponsible and carelessly crafted piece of legislation that will impose mandates on family farms, small businesses, hospitals, and universities.
It expands an environmental legal framework under the disguise of a security bill, and fails to preserve, let alone expand, current security protections for our country.
"I urge all of my colleagues to oppose this legislation."