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Mr. Chairman, Preserve funding to preserve rural communities

PD Staff Published on 19 March 2012

Senator Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, announced the committee will host four Farm Bill hearings in before April. The hearings will allow the committee to continue examining Farm Bill principles and evaluating policy solutions to develop a 2012 bill.

The first hearing, titled Energy and Economic Growth for Rural America, was held on Feb. 15.

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The purpose of this hearing was to evaluate policies that make investments in jobs and opportunities for farmers and rural businesses through new markets, entrepreneurship, regional strategies and energy innovation.

Here are excerpts of testimony presented during and the hearing:

“NFU supports a balanced energy policy that seeks energy independence by 2025 for the U.S. and, at the same time, protects our nation’s environment and recognizes the special energy needs of America’s agricultural sector and its potential contributions … Specifically, we support an Energy Title that includes robust funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) and the Biorefinery Assistance Program.”
Steve Flick, chairman of the board
Show Me Energy Co-op, Centerview, Missouri, on behalf of National Farmers Union

“Unfortunately, many rural communities lack the resources or the capacity needed to do the planning required to move beyond a purely reactive economic development approach. We encourage Rural Development to explore new ways to assist communities and rural regions in planning. These planning processes need not focus on bold changes that would be too difficult and expensive to implement. Instead, they should be focused on helping communities and regions set achievable goals for themselves based on local needs and local resources.”
Mark Rembert, executive director

Energize Clinton County (and Wilmington-Clinton County Chamber of Commerce), Wilmington, Ohio

“Preserving our rural way of life is something that’s near and dear to my heart. This can mean helping small towns build a safe drinking water system or affordable broadband Internet service, or it can come in the form of streamlined programs that are more accessible for the people who use them. Cutting red tape and making programs more efficient will be a priority as we look at all titles of the Farm Bill, particularly so in the Rural Development Title.”
Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow
(D-Michigan)

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“Our farm has been in the family for 121 years. The migration of young people away from rural areas is a known fact. Phillips County has seen a 6 percent decline in population in the last 10 years, according to the census. It is crucial to our farm and to our communities that we support industries in our rural areas that will help keep young people and young families in rural Kansas. Homegrown fuels like ethanol are a perfect fit for rural communities, with a wide range of benefits.”
William Greving, Sorghum Farmer
Greving Farms, Inc., Prairie View, Kansas

“In addition to these themes of streamlining and flexibility, I would like to suggest that an essential component of building a rural economy that lasts is new farmers. As the average age of farmers continues to increase, and interest in farming continues to grow, I believe this committee has a unique opportunity in the next Farm Bill to craft policy to ensure that there are people to take care of our rural lands in the future.”
Sec. Tom Vilsack
USDA

“Additional funding for Rural Development’s programs would certainly lead to job creation in rural counties. Therefore, it is essential that we maintain mandatory funding, look to improve existing programs and ensure program investments are tied to regional and local strategies.”
Mathias J. McCauley, director of Regional Planning & Community Development
Northwest Michigan Council of Governments, Traverse City, Michigan

“Solving the challenges facing rural communities requires a multi-pronged approach that includes adequate funding, along with steps to ensure that grant funding is available to all communities that truly need it and a comprehensive approach to technical assistance to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of Rural Development’s programs. It also includes an emphasis on regional economic development and cost-effective investments in infrastructure that provide maximum return on scarce federal, state and local resources.”
Dr. Florine P. Raitano, immediate past president
Rural Community Assistance Corp., Dillon, Colorado

“Given current budgetary challenges, it is critical that this committee create a more innovative, streamlined, flexible and regional approach to enable USDA Rural Development to administer the remaining suite of recently downsized, but very effective, economic development programs in a more integrated, aligned and leveraged framework, and wherever possible, in regional context.”
Charles Fluharty, president and CEO/research professor
Rural Policy Research Institute/Truman School of Public Affairs, Columbia, Missouri

“Our success in securing private capital would not have been possible without several early-stage research and development grants from the federal government, including the USDA Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), the Department of Energy (DOE) and others. These federal investments have provided critical research funding to test new concepts and develop the technology at the pilot and demonstration scale.”
Lee Edwards, president and CEO
Virent, Inc., Madison, Wisconsin

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