WASHINGTON, D.C. - The House of Representatives today overwhelmingly passed the Agricultural Research, Extension, and Eduction Reauthorization Act of 1997 (H.R. 2534), the first comprehensive overhaul of the nation's federal agricultural research programs in twenty years, but the measure faced grave difficulties, as some members used a rare parlimentary maneuver to prevent the bill from advancing to a conference committee with the Senate.
The Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Act of 1997 reauthorizes numerous agricultural research programs through 2002, including reform provisions which ensure peer and merit review of agricultural research, and provisions which provide for input into the priority setting process by those who benefit from agricultural research. But after the bill passed, some members of the Democrat minority objected to a conference committee to resolve differences between the bill and its Senate counterpart, potentially dooming the bill for this session of Congress, which likely will end on Sunday, November 9.
"Strong agricultural research programs have enabled America's farmers and ranchers to produce the highest quality food and fiber in the world at competitive prices. Our agricultural research reauthorization bill updates and modernizes our research programs so that America's farmers will maintain their competitive edge in an increasingly global marketplace. I truly regret that some Members expect me to assure them that the conference committee would come out to their liking. I can't do that, and no other Member can. I'll keep trying, but they may have killed this very worthy research bill, for this year at least," Smith said.
"The boll weevil has been virtually eliminated throughout the American south as a result of a highly successful research program. Genetically modified organisms such as BT corn, which incorporates pesticidal properties at the genetic level, allows farmers to combat corn root rot and corn borers without applying additional pesticides. Round-up ready soybeans, which are resistant to that common herbicide, allow round-up to be applied to the plant. Before round-up ready soybeans, farmers had to apply the herbicide before planting, before they knew whether they had a weed problem. In each instance, agricultural research has yielded better crops that save farmers and consumers money, and benefit the environment by allowing for less application of pesticides and herbicides on the farm," Smith said.
"From the start, I have worked to pass an agricultural research bill that does more with our research dollars in a tight budget environment. This bill provides a new direction in agricultural research, helping American farmers and ranchers to maintain their access to the best scientific support in the world," said Rep. Larry Combest (R-TX), Chairman of the Agriculture Forestry, Resource Conservation, and Research Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over agricultural research programs.
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District, which includes most of eastern, central, and southern Oregon, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Combest represents Texas' Nineteenth Congressional District, which includes the Panhandle, South Plains, and the Permian Basin.