U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today heard testimony during a full committee hearing regarding the implementation of energy and rural development programs included in the 2008 farm bill. Dallas Tonsager, U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary of Rural Development, and General Wesley Clark, Co-Chair of Growth Energy, were among several witnesses to testify before the committee. During his opening remarks, Sen. Chambliss said our goal should be to ensure the farm bill programs are helping deliver new opportunities to citizens through the rural development and energy tools in order to keep a strong foundation for rural America.
"Undoubtedly, the grant and loan programs administered through the USDA Rural Development mission area are a crucial part of the support mechanism the federal government uses to complement private sector investments and local efforts," said Sen. Chambliss. "It is important we reflect on how these programs are working, based on the 2008 farm bill changes, before we begin to consider the next one."
Dating back to the 1930s, USDA has aided rural families struggling with the lack of basic services such as clean water and electricity. Over time, rural development efforts at USDA have expanded to support a variety of programs including telephone service, broadband infrastructure deployment, small business assistance, renewable energy advancement and value-added agriculture product development.
"As we respond to these obstacles, we must ensure that those who live and work in rural America -- our agricultural producers -- are prepared to meet the continued demands of the 21st Century," said Sen. Chambliss. "Whether lowering input costs through increased energy efficiency or providing unique marketing opportunities for the commodities they produce, rural development programs should benefit those who nurture our rural communities -- farmers and ranchers. I believe that the future success of rural America is dependent on maintaining a strong agriculture sector in conjunction with vibrant rural economic development efforts."
The hearing is the second in a series hosted by the Senate Agriculture Committee to review current farm law and implementation in preparation of the next farm bill.