This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Campbell (R-CA), which would have eliminated $235,000, earmarked for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture research and education activities on specialty crops in Indiana. The amendment was offered to the a bill providing fiscal 2010 year funding for the Department of Agriculture, rural development, and the Food and Drug Administration and related agencies. An earmark is a project that benefits only a specific constituency or geographic area, which is inserted into a spending bill by an individual Member. A number of Republicans had been consistent critics of earmarks, and had been offering a series of amendments to remove them from spending bills.
Rep. Campbell, speaking on behalf of his amendment, noted that the country was “in a period of great fiscal strain, where we have a $2 trillion deficit running this year, another $1 trillion deficit every year for as far as the eye can see, and 46 cents of every dollar . . . this year will be borrowed.” He referenced the recent statement by the Congressional Budget Office that the current budget levels are “‘unsustainable’ given the situation that we're in, given the deficits we're running, given the debt we're building up, given the amount of money that we're borrowing, given the spending that we're going through . . . .”
Campbell suggested that spending should be limited to what he called “true national priorities, true things that are really those things that we must do and can only do right now rather than things that are designed for a specific district, specific area or a specific industry”. He then said “that this particular earmark . . . does not rise to that level of national and critical importance . . . .”
Rep. Ellsworth (D-IN), who was responsible for having the earmark inserted in the spending bill, began his remarks opposing the amendment by noting that he had 9,000 farms in his district, while Rep. Campbell had only 72 farms in his district. Ellsworth noted that the specific project that would be funded with the $235,000 that the amendment sought to remove would be undertaken by an agricultural center that “provides an important resource for farmers to improve crop quality and yields and decrease pesticide use.” He added that it “is critical for conducting research on crops in our area . . . (which is) within a day's drive of 40 percent of the American population . . . And because approximately 40 percent of the Nation's population live within a day's drive of that area, we think it's extremely important to explore all of the possibilities of that area.”
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 111-320. One hundred and eight Republicans and three Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and fifty-two Democrats and sixty-eight Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the $235,000 earmarked for the research and education activities on specialty crops in Indiana remained in H.R. 2997.