WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Bob Smith (R-OR), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, today said that President Clinton's newly released budget for Fiscal Year 1998 genarally keeps most commitments to American agriculture, but found provisions on meat inspection and food stamps troubling.
(Audio tape on Smith's reaction to the Administration's budget is available by calling (202) 226-3977. Smith speaks on meat inspection first, followed by food stamps and welfare reform. Smith's comments play twice.)
"This is an extremely long and complicated document, and we are still digesting it. But so far it appears to keep most commitments to American agriculture. On pure budget items, it's pretty well on target. Still, there are some troubling provisions here," Smith said.
"Mandating in-plant meat inspections to be financed through a nearly $400 million annual user fee simply punishes livestock producers and consumers. Meat inspection has historically been a responsibility of the federal government, and that's a fiscal responsibility, too. If the Administration values a safe food supply - and it clearly does - then it should put up the money to ensure it, just as previous Administrations always have. This is unwise and unnecessary," Smith said.
"Welfare reform, including food stamp reform, had two goals: to control costs, and to restructure public assistance to reduce dependency. The ink is barely dry, but the Administration wants to add $3.3 billion back into food stamps and to weaken the work requirements. In other words, they want to weaken the two main benefits of reforming welfare and food stamps. Having accomplished as much as we did, I doubt this committee will undo its reforms before they have a chance to work. It's also very likely that $3.3 billion is too conservative an estimate. My guess is that CBO will take a different view of that," Smith said.
Smith cautioned that he and other members of the Committee were still reviewing the Administration's budget and that some policy proposals were not detailed enough to allow for a thorough examination.
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District, which includes most of eastern, southern, and central Oregon, in the U.S. House of Representatives.