Ag Committee Holds Energy Hearings

Earlier this week, the Senate agriculture committee held its first set of hearings regarding the 2012 Farm Bill. The February 15 hearing dealt with energy policy in rural America.

The hearing is the first official discussion of the 2012 Farm Bill this year. The meetings cannot come too soon for many farmers, who worry that the 2008 Farm Bill, which is set to expire in the fall, will not last long enough to guarantee congressional action on a new set of farm policies.

The reason for the 2012 Farm Bill’s delay is internecine political infighting in Congress, with both parties seemingly more concerned with scoring political points than passing new farm legislation. In addition, the budget hysteria currently gripping political leaders has served to intensify debates over which farm program to preserve and which to abandon.

Wednesday’s testimony dealt with agricultural energy policies. During the hearings, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke, imploring members of Congress to continue funding energy programs.

“Over the course of many years, this committee and Congress have provided USDA with more than 40 programs in rural development, many of which have overlapping authorities and goals. Together, I hope we can look at streamlining the USDA’s grant and loan authority to reduce the number of programs, while maintaining the flexibility to continue to serve rural communities and businesses in an effective and comprehensive way,” Vilsack said.

Congress has until September 30 to pass a new farm bill or renew the 2008 bill.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer