Senate Ag Chairman Harkin Details Panel Agenda

November 19, 2008 06:00 PM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Harkin lists seven key topics his panel will address

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

I asked Senate Ag Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to detail the top issues his panel will address during 2009. The following are the seven major topics Harkin said his panel will focus on:

-- Economic Challenges. Pursue initiatives in the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Committee that will contribute to national economic recovery. “In the financial markets, stronger regulation of OTC swaps and derivatives transactions can help to restore confidence, integrity and soundness to our nation’s financial sector,” Harkin said. Harkin today is holding a teleconference to discuss new legislation on derivatives.

“Agriculture and rural communities must be included in plans for stimulus spending and federal investment – such as credit and capital for agriculture and rural businesses, capital investments in community facilities, broadband, conservation measures (ECP, EWP, etc.),” Harkin added. “These rural measures should be part of efforts to strengthen the economy.”

On the farm policy front, Harkin said farmers have had to deal with higher production costs but much lower commodity prices than at planting time. “So there is significant potential for financial stress. The ACRE (Average Crop Revenue Election) program in the farm bill is specifically designed to help farmers survive these sorts of fluctuations in economic circumstances.”

-- Child nutrition reauthorization is due in 2009. The Ag panel will review those programs, including adequacy of support to schools and other providers for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks; and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. “This bill is a critical opportunity which should not be missed to 1) improve the nutritional quality, balance and healthfulness of the foods taxpayer dollars are paying for and providing through these programs, and 2) ensure that the federal investment in good nutrition is not nullified by what is sold to kids through other channels in schools,” Harkin said. “We can do more to promote local purchases and foods in schools, too.”

-- Rural renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives. “Only a few weeks ago our nation was staggering under high energy prices and huge worries about our energy future. We will have another energy crisis before long unless we act now,” Harkin said.

-- Oversight of farm bill implementation – conservation, commodity programs, livestock and competition title.

-- Increasing global demand for food, feed, fiber and energy feedstock needs is putting tremendous demands upon the world’s land and other resources. “We did well in the farm bill in conservation, yet the need is great enough that we should find the funds to make new investments in conservation and in food and agriculture research,” according to Harkin.

-- Addressing continuing problems at USDA in civil rights. “The situation is so disgraceful and intractable that it requires constant attention and goading,” Harkin said. The following is a link to a General Accountability Office (GAO) report Harkin released in October on the issue:

-- Food safety system failures and flare-ups keep on repeating themselves. “The next Congress should present a better climate for improving the nation’s food safety system,” Harkin concluded.

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.


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