via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.
Harkin lists seven key topics his panel
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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
-- 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,”
-- Oversight of farm bill implementation
– conservation, commodity programs, livestock and
-- 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.
This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or
retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.