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.
President Wastes $150 million in Export Enhancement Program Funds as Fisxal Year 1998 Comes to a Close
WASHINGTON, D.C. — With only three days left in Fiscal Year 1998, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Smith (R-OR) sharply criticized President Clinton for failing to use $150 million in funds authorized by Congress for the Export Enhancement Program (EEP) to help ease the devastating burden on farmers caused by the Administration's absence of leadership in agricultural trade.
President Clinton promised farmers that his administration would use EEP to its maximum to secure foreign markets for U.S. agricultural products. The 1996 Farm Bill made over $1.5 billion available for EEP in 1996-99. Ignoring the current farm crisis and repeated calls from farm groups and farm state legislators to use EEP to prevent the loss of markets in wheat, wheat flour, vegetable oils, and other commodities, the President has used virtually nothing. $150 million in EEP funds will go to waste when Fiscal Year 1998 ends on September 30.
"Farm prices have hit bottom and agricultural exports are dwindling despite the rest of economy's success. The President spends his time traveling around the country raising campaign money and talks a good game about economic growth, but he absolutely refused to take the most basic actions and make good on his promise to help our farmers," Smith said. "Congress made nearly $50 million a month available for EEP for FY 1998. It will now go down as a complete waste and farmers will continue to lose overseas markets. It is an inexcusable dereliction of his duty."
"The President may be able to hide from responsibility for the long-term damage his lack of leadership has done to international trade, but the short-term harm is all too visible as time runs out on using EEP funds to alleviate this crisis and farmers continue to suffer," Smith added. "I can only hope, and I have little basis for that hope, that the President will start using the new EEP funds in 1999. To continue his assault on farmers would be unconscionable."
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District -- which includes most of eastern, southern and central Oregon -- in the U.S. House of Representatives.