Opening Statement: Subcommittee Chairman Austin Scott: Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit Subcommittee Hearing: The Next Farm Bill: Rural Development and Energy Programs
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
Good morning everyone. Welcome to the Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit subcommittee’s first hearing of the new Congress. Today’s hearing is part of an ongoing series where each subcommittee is holding at least two hearings to discuss the Farm Bill programs and issues under its respective jurisdiction.
Before I begin, I’d like to thank Ranking Member Scott for again agreeing to serve with me in the leadership of this subcommittee. I am looking forward to working with you again this Congress.
In addition I want to welcome our new members to the subcommittee. On the Republican side we have: Representative James Comer from Kentucky’s First District, Representative Roger Marshal from Kansas’ First District, and Representative John Faso from New York’s Nineteenth District.
I yield to Ranking Member David Scott to introduce his new members.
Today, we’re going to be reviewing the rural development and energy programs in the 2014 Farm Bill. These programs support infrastructure construction, encourage capital formation, and help to promote economic development across rural America.
It is appropriate that this is the topic of our first hearing in support of the next farm bill. So much of what rural America will be able to accomplish over the next decade will be tied to how well these programs work.
Every day our young rural citizens look around them, assess their lives, and try to make the best choices they can about their futures. Unfortunately too many feel they have more opportunities somewhere else, and when they leave, they leave behind hollowed out communities that grow older, that become less adaptable, and that are unable to maintain their quality of life.
With today’s hearing, we will begin to examine ways we can reverse that cycle.
For many rural communities, rural development initiatives help to offset the high fixed costs of providing basic services like clean water, reliable electricity, and universal phone service. Residents of these communities simply would not be able to afford to live there without these key investments. Federal support for infrastructure remains a key part of our commitment to rural America.
But, our commitment to rural America is not just about new pipes and wires. While we often think of progress as a new powerline, a new water treatment plant, or a new broadband connection, real progress is about expanding opportunities. We must use these programs to narrow the divide between rural and urban America.
Upgrading water and energy infrastructure can improve quality of life while bringing new employment opportunities. Building a new health center can bring new care for families. Installing broadband can bring new ideas to students and innovation to farmers and ranchers. Renewable energy development can create valuable markets and income opportunities for farmers, keeping them on the land, and viable domestic energy policies create new job opportunities in rural communities. Providing investment capital can further link agricultural producers with the global economy. The jobs, the healthcare, the ideas, and the market access are the real measures of progress for rural America.
For almost 90 years, USDA’s Rural Development office and its predecessors have been working to bring opportunities to rural residents. As we begin work on the next farm bill, I am looking forward to hearing from our witnesses about how Congress can improve on the initiatives we have in place.
Rural Development and energy programs in the farm bill will need to find ways to do more with less. I look forward to creative ideas from our witnesses about how we can grow opportunities and rebuild rural communities.
With that, I will turn it over to our Ranking Member, Mr. David Scott, for any comments he would like to make.