USDA's rural development programs received the once-over earlier this week by the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture. According to Subcommittee Chair Timothy Johnson, R-Ill., this was the eleventh and final hearing in the audit series designed to provide members of the committee with a greater understanding of farm policy. Since June, subcommittee chairmen have examined programs in their respective jurisdictions to determine spending trends and confirm whether the purpose and goals of agricultural programs are being met successfully.
"We are assessing how USDA is utilizing the authorities provided through this committee, and where scarce funds are being allocated," Johnson said. "As we approach the next farm bill, it is important that we have a clear idea of how programs are being implemented as we look for opportunities to streamline and improve them."
Ranking Member Jim Costa, D-Calif, says testimony was heard regarding the many challenges facing rural America and this administration's efforts to leverage increasingly limited federal dollars to position rural communities to compete in this global economy. Costa noted that Congress should ensure USDA Rural Development programs meet the needs of rural communities in every corner of the country.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., says these hearings have provided committee members with a snapshot of how USDA is spending taxpayer dollars to support American agriculture.
"We've looked for ways to increase efficiency and reduce spending in every aspect of farm policy, from commodity support to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program," Lucas said. "We've collected 19 questionnaires with detailed information on USDA programs and heard from 22 separate testimonies from USDA officials. We have not shied away from difficult questions. We have pressed the Administration on ways to eliminate redundant programs and improve service for our farmers and ranchers."
Lucas says the information gathered through the audit process will be useful as the Ag Committee develops farm policy for the future and to convey the importance of farm policy to every member of Congress. He says after all not everyone farms, but everyone eats.