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Hearing of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee - Energy and Economic Growth for Rural America


Location: Washington, DC

Again, good morning and thank you all for being here as we continue our hearings on the 2012
Farm Bill.

Today's hearing focuses on our efforts around rural development, bio-based manufacturing, and
energy -- all of which involve policies that help businesses create jobs in rural America and new
market opportunities for farmers. As I've said many times before, the Farm Bill is a Jobs Bill,
and that is why it's so critical that we pass a bill this Spring -- a sentiment we heard this week
from more than 80 farm groups. I couldn't agree more.

I count myself lucky to have grown up in the small town of Clare, Michigan, and 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.

Especially with our current budget pressures, we need to think strategically about the best way
to achieve long-term economic growth in rural America. One of the most effective things we can
do is to encourage leaders to work together on regional economic strategies, allowing them to
create job opportunities that are more likely to stay in their towns and regions.

Bio-based manufacturing is a great example of new opportunities in rural America through
innovative businesses that create good jobs. The economic benefit is twofold: new markets for
the farms and new jobs and opportunities in town. According to a recent Department of
Agriculture study, the bio-based plastic and chemical products industry could create over
100,000 American jobs -- and many in rural America. Biomass is another critical component of
the bio-economy. These companies develop new uses for wood fiber and other forestry products
and clean, American-grown energy.

Farm Bill Energy Programs promote innovation by entrepreneurs and businesses small and
large. Secretary Vilsack and I got a chance to see this first-hand last August at the Pure Michigan
400 NASCAR race, where all of the cars are powered using American-made biofuels. But the
energy title isn't just about next generation of biofuels -- the most popular program is the Rural
Energy for America Program, which helps producers reduce their energy costs through
renewable or efficiency measures -- and we know this has created or saved more than 14,000
rural jobs.

This weekend, we remembered the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, who, 150 years ago this year
created the Department of Agriculture. He called it the "People's Department." It's only fitting
that today's hearing focuses on the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on the health of
rural economies all across the country.

I want to thank all of our panelists for being here today, and I now turn it over to Ranking Member Roberts for his opening statements.

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