Soto Secures Environmental Wins for Central Florida in Funding Bill

July 24, 2020
Press Release
$259.5 billion package invests For the People, with strong funding for priorities like environment, public health and safety, climate change, infrastructure, and food security.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the House of Representatives passed key environmental initiatives secured by Congressman Darren Soto (FL-09) in a $259.5 billion funding package that consists of fiscal year 2021 State-Foreign Operations, Agriculture-Rural Development-FDA, Interior-Environment, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bills. 

“House Democrats are once again prioritizing the preservation and restoration of Florida’s most breathtaking sites,” said Rep. Soto. “From protecting our pristine waterways and species to recognizing the need to prevent potential disasters, our initiatives safeguard the Florida way of life. This is what action For the People looks like!”

Congressman Soto’s priorities for Central Floridians passed in this House FY21 appropriations package include:

  • Kissimmee River: encourages the National Park Service to consider including sites undergoing restoration like the Kissimmee River for the Wild & Scenic Rivers Program. 
  • Everglades Restoration: $15,238,000 for the Everglades Restoration including the $10 million for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program.
  • Harmful Algal Blooms: Recognizes the increasing threat of Harmful Algal Blooms to coastal and freshwater ecosystems, like those we have in Florida, and encourages the EPA to support and conduct research that promotes scientific progress toward preventing and controlling HABs.
  • Coral Reef Health: Recognizes the unprecedented coral disease outbreak, along the Great Florida Reef Tract, and the Reef’s importance to biodiversity, our economy and our way of life. It also supports the Department of Interior and NOAA monitoring, research and restoration efforts Including in Biscayne National Park and the Dry Tortugas National Park. Finally, it recommends additional resources to support state and local partners conducting this work on a daily basis.  
  • USGS, Sinkholes: Incorporates Congressman Soto’s language encouraging USGS to use the 3DEP program to quickly and remotely identify sinkholes and consider areas with a high risk of sinkhole development, like in the Sunshine State.
  • USGS, Natural Hazards: Recognizes the current lack of knowledge and off-shore real-time instrumentation for the Cascadia subduction zone in the Caribbean Basin. It also recommends continued development of an early earthquake warning system and expansion into locations that will benefit from early detection of earthquakes. This is in response to the recent earthquakes in Puerto Rico.

A floor speech of Congressman Soto going over these wins can be found here

The House also passed two amendments introduced by Congressman Soto that offer key investments into America’s agriculture industry.  

“Fertile soils, diverse crops, numerous growing seasons and dedicated farmers are what make Florida’s agriculture industry one of the strongest and prosperous in the nation,” said Rep. Soto. “Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has inevitably shown us the importance of protecting Florida’s food supply and our precious crops. My two amendments help put safe, nutritious food on Americans’ tables and increases investments to enhance the security and reliability of our supply chains. With our constituents in mind, I am proud to have secured these vital provisions in our annual funding bill to support our agricultural industry in Central Florida.” 

The following amendments were led by Congressman Soto:

  • Fertilizer Management Initiative: Increases funding by $1 million for High-Priority Research And Extension Initiatives - Fertilizer Management Initiative at the Department of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture authorized in Sec. 7209 in the 2018 Farm Bill. The amendment was recommended by the Florida agriculture community. It is also co-sponsored by Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-WA)
  • Food & Drug Supply Chain Tracing for COVID: Increases and decreases funding by $2,276,000 for the collaborative effort of the Office of Regulatory Affairs and other offices within the FDA to provide further resources and further implementation of the Food and Veterinary Medicine Program Strategic Plan to enhance the security and reliability of U.S. supply chains during COIVD-19 for food, pharmaceuticals, and other essential medical equipment and supplies through technologies such as blockchain. This builds on efforts advanced by the House Appropriations Committee to support FDA’s food safety modernization and food traceability efforts, and blockchain programs already piloted by the FDA, and this additional funding is meant to enhance the “distributed trust” benefits of blockchain technology and allow the FDA to take advantage of increased transparency, security and informed decision-making to rapidly address threats and increase the reliability and security of U.S. supply chains. It is also co-sponsored by Congressman David Schweikert (R-AZ). 

In addition to Congressman Soto’s provisions, the legislation rejects the proposed slashing and outright elimination of critical programs in President Trump’s budget, and instead strengthens food security, prioritizes public health and safety, invests in infrastructure, supports service members, veterans, and military families, protects the environment, and combats climate change.

The legislation includes strong emergency funding to help support economic recovery, with investments in critical infrastructure and coronavirus preparedness, response, and relief globally. It also specifically restores funding for the World Health Organization, which President Trump has threatened to cut off.

The legislation also provides a necessary check on the Trump administration, including by blocking President Trump from stealing appropriated funds from servicemembers to pay for the border wall or to backfill projects already canceled for that purpose and by blocking SNAP rules by the administration designed to restrict program eligibility.

A division-by-division summary of H.R. 7608 is available as a PDF here.