October 11, 2000
H.R. 4461 - AGRICULTURE, RURAL DEVELOPMENT,
This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views on
the conference version of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug
Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, FY 2001.
FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, AND
RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS BILL, FY 2001
(Sponsors: Skeen (R), New Mexico; Cochran (R), Mississippi)
The conference report includes support for a number of important priorities for
the Nation. In particular, the bill includes full funding for the President's
Food Safety Initiative, significant increases in rural development programs to
help rural communities and residents take part in the national economic
expansion, provisions that will enable food stamp recipients to own dependable
cars and have better shelter without losing their eligibility, and relief to
farmers and ranchers who suffered losses from natural disasters. While the
Administration continues to support a range of conservation efforts, such as the
Farmland Protection, Wetlands Reserve, and Environmental Quality Incentives
Programs, and is disappointed that this bill did not provide full funding for
these efforts, we do appreciate the increases that were provided including funds
for conservation technical assistance. However, while the Administration
supports this conference report, it has concerns with several provisions in the
The Administration is disappointed that the prescription drug reimportation
provision in this bill will fail to achieve its goal of providing needed relief
from the high costs of prescription drugs. The majority leadership chose to end
bipartisan negotiations and instead produced a provision in the conference
report that leaves numerous loopholes that will render this provision
meaningless. Specifically, it allows drug manufacturers to deny importers
access to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved labeling required for
reimportation so that any and all drug companies could -- and probably would --
block reimportation of their medications. Second, a "sunset" was added that
ends the importation system five years after it goes into effect. This will
limit private and public sector interest in investing in this system. Third,
the conference language permits the drug industry to use contracts or agreements
to provide financial disincentives for foreign distributors to reimport to U.S.
importers. Finally, despite the Administration's repeated requests, the
conference requires FDA to pay for the costs associated with this provision from
within resources needed to perform its other important public health activities.
It is wrong that U.S. citizens pay the highest prices in the world for
medications, leaving many with no other option than to go abroad to obtain
affordable prescription drugs. But it is also wrong to provide false hope that
this provision will work to address this problem. Moreover, Congress has thus
far failed to pass a meaningful Medicare prescription drug benefit that will not
only provide price discounts but will insure seniors and people with
disabilities against the catastrophic costs of medications.
On the "Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000," which is
included in the conference report, there are two major concerns to the
Administration. First, the restrictions on the ability of the President to
initiate new sanctions and maintain old ones are overly stringent. This
effectively disarms the President's ability to conduct foreign policy while
providing potential targets of U.S. actions with the time to take
countermeasures. Second, the provisions of the bill affecting travel to Cuba
would significantly set back our people-to-people exchanges that are in the
interest of opening up Cuban society. They also would preclude travel by
technicians and others needed to conduct normal business by the U.S. Interests
Section in Havana, as well as travel for humanitarian purposes.
With respect to the provision, "Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act of
2000," the Administration agrees with the findings that state that unfair trade
laws have as their purpose the restoration of conditions of fair trade.
However, that is the purpose of the anti-dumping and counter-vailing duties
themselves, which accomplish that purpose. By raising the price of imports they
shield domestic producers from import competition and allow domestic
manufacturers to raise prices, increase production, and improve revenues.
Consequently, distribution of the tariffs themselves to producers is not
necessary to the restoration of conditions of fair trade. In addition, there
are significant concerns regarding administrative feasibility and consistency
with our trade policy objectives, including the potential for trading partners
to adopt similar mechanisms. Such concerns were raised and examined with regard
to a similar proposal considered during passage of the Uruguay Round Agreements
Act. That proposal was ultimately rejected.
In addition, the Administration believes the provision removing the authority of
USDA's Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment has no
justification, will interfere with the agency's ability to manage itself
effectively, and sets a highly undesirable precedent.
The Administration is also disappointed that the bill prohibits the Secretary of
Agriculture from designating any part of a USDA research lab in Ft. Reno,
Oklahoma, as surplus land, thereby preventing any consideration of returning
land to the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribe. The Secretary should retain his authority
to effectively manage USDA property and consider its alternative uses.