On Tuesday, Rep. Timothy V. Johnson, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture, held an audit hearing to examine U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rural development programs. This is the eleventh and final hearing in the audit series designed to provide members of the committee with a greater understanding of farm policy. Since June, the subcommittee chairmen have examined programs in their respective jurisdictions to determine spending trends and confirm whether the purpose and goals of agricultural programs are being met successfully.
Tuesday's hearing provided a review of the programs administered by USDA's Rural Development agency, which includes the Rural Business and Cooperative Service (RBS), the Rural Housing Service (RHS), and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS). RBS provides help to rural areas to develop job opportunities. RHS manages housing needs, as well as health facilities, fire and police stations, and other community facilities. RUS addresses needs for basic services such as water, sewer, waste disposal, electricity, and telecommunications.
"The continuing discussions in Congress on spending and the budget have added impetus to our discussions today. Through this series of hearings we are assessing how USDA is utilizing the authorities provided through this committee, and where scarce funds are being allocated. As we approach the next farm bill, it is important that we have a clear idea of how programs are being implemented as we look for opportunities to streamline and improve them," said Chairman Timothy V. Johnson (R-IL).
"We heard testimony today regarding the many challenges facing rural America and this administration's efforts to leverage increasingly limited federal dollars to position rural communities to compete in this global economy. From rural broadband initiatives to lending for rural housing, we ought to ensure USDA Rural Development programs meet the needs of rural communities in every corner of the country," said Ranking Member Jim Costa (D-CA).