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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Alaska "Seafood Waste" Earmark Shows Lengths to Which Advocates Go to Conceal Their Handiwork

A congressional insider provided the following account of an earmark contained in the proposed 2007 Agriculture Appropriations bill. Are not the senators and staffers who practice the following legislative concealment gulity of some form of fraud?

Here is just one example of the trickery that goes into hiding earmarks in appropriations bills and the hours of detective work necessary to find basic information about how tax dollars are being spent by Congress:

The Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 Agriculture Appropriations bill contains a $2,009,878 earmark for a "seafood waste" project in Fairbanks, Alaska. Neither the bill nor its accompanying report contains a description of the purpose of this project, its intended goals or the actual amount of the earmark.

The purpose and actual amount of this earmark is a "hide and seek" exercise that requires extensive detective work.

The earmark is contained within a list of "Program Continuations" in the bill report, which states "the Committee directs the Agricultural Research Service to continue to fund the following areas of research in fiscal year 2007 at the same funding level recommended in fiscal year 2006."

The FY 2006 Agriculture appropriations conference report states that "The conference agreement includes increased funding in fiscal year 2006 to expand" the seafood waste earmark project by $75,000. The report again does not state what the purpose of the research is or what the total amount of the earmark is.

The Joint Explanatory Statement for the FY 2005 Consolidated Appropriations Act published in the Congressional Record states a “further increase” is provided for "Seafood Waste, Fairbanks, AK (U of AK), $160,000 (of which $50,000 goes to the State of Alaska)."[1] Again, the actual amount and purpose are not provided.

Going back a year earlier, a "further increase" of $180,000 is provided for "Seafood Waste, Fairbanks, AK (U of AK)" in the FY 2004 Consolidated Omnibus Appropriations bill.[2]

The FY 2003 Consolidated appropriations bill report states,"The conferees have agreed to increased funding for… Seafood Waste, Fairbanks, AK" by $200,000.[3]

The term "seafood waste" does not appear in the FY 2002 Agriculture appropriations conference report. The conference report does, however, state:

"The statement of the managers remains silent on provisions that were in both the House and Senate bills that remain unchanged by this conference agreement, except as noted in this statement of the managers. … The House and Senate report language that is not changed by the conference is approved by the committee of conference. The statement of the managers, while repeating some report language for emphasis, does not intend to negate the language referred to above unless expressly provided herein."[4]

There is no reference to "seafood waste" in the report for the FY 2002 House-passed Agriculture appropriations bill.

The FY 2002 Senate Agriculture appropriations bill, however, states:

"Seafood waste - While seafood is attractive now as an alternate food source, the disposal of seafood waste continues to be a national and international problem. Discarded fish waste and its other uses could potentially provide an additional source of revenue for seafood processors. The Committee provides an increase of $900,000 for fiscal year 2002 for ARS to develop a program with the University of Alaska on feedstuffs generated from materials usually wasted during processing of seafoods."[5]

There is no reference to "seafood waste" in the FY 2001 Agriculture appropriations bills or reports passed by both the House and Senate.

Anyone interested in knowing the purpose of this earmark would have to search back through five years of appropriations bills. Finding the amount of the earmark is even more complicated since the base amount is never provided, only the amount that the project is to increase each year.

A clerk from the Senate Appropriations Committee disclosed that the actual amount that the Alaska "seafood waste" earmark is to receive under the FY 2007 Agriculture appropriations bill is $2,009,878.

[1] CONGRESSIONAL RECORD - HOUSE, November 19, 2004, H10413.

[2] CONGRESSIONAL RECORD - HOUSE, November 25, 2003, H12448.

[3] "MAKING FURTHER CONTINUING APPROPRIATIONS FOR THE FISCAL

YEAR 2003, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES CONFERENCE REPORT TO ACCOMPANY H.J. Res. 2," House Report 108-10, Page 556.

[4] "MAKING APPROPRIATIONS FOR AGRICULTURE, RURAL DEVELOPMENT, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES PROGRAMS FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDING SEPTEMBER 30, 2002, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES," House Report 107-275, page 47.

[5] Senate Report 107-41 to accompany S. 1191, page 35.