The Senate Ag Committee held a hearing Wednesday on the implementation of energy and rural development programs in the 2008 Farm Bill. Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., says the goal should be to ensure 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. Chambliss says the USDA's Rural Development program's grant and loan programs are a crucial part of the support mechanism the government uses to complement investments and local efforts in the private sector, and it's important to reflect on how the programs are working before considering changes to the next farm bill.
Senate Ag Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., says it's critical to effectively utilize every tool available to create jobs, put the economy back on track and reduce the nation's dependency on foreign oil. She says a flourishing renewable energy industry will bring good paying jobs and investments to rural communities all over the country. She says it's also necessary to develop biofuels and biomass energy policies that work for rural America. Lincoln asked her colleagues to imagine investing the $27.5 billion the U.S. spent on foreign oil in just one month this year in renewable and clean energy development instead.
"U.S. farmers, ranchers and foresters are innovative and eager to expand their role to provide an inexpensive, sustainable and safe supply of renewable fuel and energy," Lincoln said. "But they need new markets and new opportunities to help ensure prosperity in the nation's rural communities."
That is why she says it's important to ensure the programs enacted in the farm bill achieve those goals. The Chairman also states rural America won't be able to compete with the rest of the country without broadband Internet.
Lincoln says the farm bill is the most important piece of legislation Congress considers on behalf of rural America. She says nothing is more important than empowering the nation's rural communities and ensuring future generations have the opportunity to enjoy the quality of life rural America offers.