As the House Agriculture Committee last week completed its work on the 2007 Farm Bill, 12th District Georgia Congressman John Barrow (D-Savannah) made his mark on the bill: passing an amendment to stop the closure and consolidation of hundreds of FSA, NRCS, and Rural Development offices, and inserting major research and energy components into the final version of the bill.
"I'm excited about our accomplishments in the Agriculture Committee," Barrow said. "The progress we made on this bill not only addresses many of the immediate concerns facing our rural communities - like misguided efforts to shut down many FSA offices - but it also focuses on long term priorities, such as expanded agricultural research and energy independence."
In opposing the UDSA's efforts to close many FSA, NRSC, and Rural Development offices around the country, Barrow sponsored an amendment to place a one-year moratorium on current closure, consolidation, and relocation plans. The delay will allow the Agriculture Committee and the USDA to conduct an adequate and thorough analysis, before any plan is set into action. Earlier this year, Barrow had introduced a bill (H.R. 2427) that would accomplish the same result, and it is now a part of the Farm Bill.
"On top of the obligations that the new Farm Bill places on USDA, these offices will soon have the added chore of distributing the disaster aid money we recently got passed into law," Barrow said. "This is definitely not the time to be closing these offices - and shortchanging the needs of our rural communities."
Also, the Agriculture Committee adopted another Barrow amendment that will create a program under which the USDA will sponsor a series of demonstration farms that will be used for research and development of energy generation and conservation technologies that can make farms energy independent. The result will be added value for Georgia farms, and savings for farm operations.
Barrow is currently the only member in the House of Representatives to serve on the Agriculture Committee and Energy and Commerce Committee.
In addition, the Agriculture Committee incorporated another Barrow initiative in the research title to the 2007 Farm Bill. The bill incorporates the substance of another bill Barrow introduced earlier this year, the CREATE 21 Act (H.R. 2398). Barrow's measure will eliminate duplication in USDA research; consolidate USDA's research, extension, and teaching agencies; and expand targeted research funding.
Despite his success on these fronts, Barrow was disappointed that the bill does not provide what he believes is adequate support for the country's peanut farmers.
"The decreased payments to America's peanut farmers will put them at a competitive disadvantage. Unless we can get some more help, I'm afraid that the future of the peanut industry in Georgia is going to take a hit. I'm not giving up - I'm going to keep working to get more help for our peanut farmers."
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