Government Panel Recommends Universal Health Care Coverage
Their report’s findings could profoundly reform and reshape U.S. health care – a public comment period extends through August
The Citizens’ Health Care Working Group, an independent committee established by Congress in the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act, recently released “Health Care that Works for All Americans.” The report and its recommendations are based on months of meetings across the nation, public opinion polls, data and policy recommendations from health care and health financing experts, and 5,000 individual commentaries on health care related issues.
Members of the committee were appointed by the Comptroller of the United States and represent a cross-section of heath care providers, consumers, and benefit providers. The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services is also a member.
The committee found a health care system it describes as “unintelligible to most people” and that is “disconnected from the mission of providing people with humane, respectful, and technically excellent health care.” To address those deficiencies, the committee made the following recommendations:
>> Public policy that all Americans have affordable health care, with access to a “set of core health care services” and financial assistance to those who need it. This will “require new revenues” from revenue streams such as enrollee contributions, income taxes or surcharges, “sin taxes,” business or payroll taxes, or value-added taxes targeted to a health care initiative. This recommendation is based on the committee’s finding that assuring health care is a “shared social responsibility.”
>> Defining a “core benefit package” for all Americans.
>> Guaranteed financial protection against very high health care costs through a national program (either private or public) that ensures universal health care coverage and financial protection for low-income Americans and against very high out-of-pocket costs.
>> Support of community health provider networks for health care services in underserved areas and for vulnerable populations, including rural areas and rural residents.
>> Promote efforts to improve quality of care and efficiency to lower costs.
The public has until August 31, 2006, to comment on the report. The president then has an opportunity to review and add his comments. Five committees in Congress will subsequently hold hearings. This report and its recommendations have the potential to profoundly reform and shape the American health care system. That makes public comment vital.
Comments may be submitted online at www.CitizensHealthCare.gov
(the entire report may also be accessed there); by email at CitizensHealth@ahrq.gov; or by mail at Citizens’ Health Care Working Group, Attn: Interim Recommendations, 7201 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 575, Bethesda, MD 20814.
Contact: Jon Bailey, 402.687.2103 x 1013 or
Center Joins “Coalition to Keep America Connected” to Broadband
Through membership, we seek to ensure that all rural people and all rural communities are connected to each other and the world
With access to modern and affordable telecommunications technology becoming a necessity to residents of rural communities and a major rural policy issue, the Center recently joined the Coalition to Keep America Connected as a Supporting Member. The Coalition includes over 700 small and mid-sized communications companies across the nation and others (such as the Center) who support the need for accessible and affordable telecommunications technology in rural America.
Access to affordable, modern telecommunications technology is no longer a luxury, and rural Americans are no longer content to be treated as second-class technological citizens. Modern, high-speed telecommunications technology is crucial to the rural economy and quality of life.
Rural businesses and entrepreneurs, no matter their size, must have access to affordable modern technology to communicate with suppliers and consumers and to develop global markets. Farmers and ranchers depend on modern technology for marketing their goods and products and for instant news and information.
Rural schools depend on modern technology to enhance curriculums and to open the world to teachers and students. Rural healthcare is increasingly dependent on telemedicine. By allowing local healthcare providers to communicate with distant specialists and other providers, modern technology is often a life or death matter to rural citizens.
Rural communities can enhance other quality of life factors they enjoy with modern telecommunications technology that allows growth and development. And all rural citizens should have the right to enjoy the social, cultural, consumer, and educational options modern technology provides. Affordable, accessible modern telecommunications technology is absolutely necessary for the viability of all segments of rural life and commerce.
Like the development of modern roads and highways in the 20th century, modern telecommunications technology allows rural communities to truly become part of the world and the global economy. Through membership in this coalition, the Center seeks to help ensure that all rural people and all rural communities are connected to each other and the world.
More information on the Coalition to Keep America Connected can be found at www.keepamericaconnected.org.
Contact: Jon Bailey, 402.687.2103 x 1013 or
email@example.com for more information.
Correction to June Issue
The June issue article “Latest County Income Level Data” contained an inaccurate link for the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ list of the 250 lowest income counties. The correct website link is:
We apologize for the confusion and inconvenience.
Transforming to a “Bedroom Community” Should Be Last Option
Unique culture and history provide a rural community’s identity; the “bedroom community” mentality threatens that
Small rural communities have alternatives for economic and population growth, and community development professionals can help explore those possibilities. It is troublesome though when providers come up with “bedroom community” as the first option for growth and economic stability.
Bedroom communities are outgrowths of an urban mentality that go beyond the normal borders of the suburban landscape. Suburbs located adjacent to urban areas have become mechanized, overpriced, and lacking in character.
“Exurbs” or bedroom communities are those outlying smaller rural communities that offer peace, lower housing costs, less crime, and a sense of belonging. Urban and suburban folks flock to these communities and commute back to the city for employment. What is wrong with this?
Small rural communities have an identity that can be summed up by the Kansas Rural Center’s eight components of rural culture. These are: Architecture, Commerce, Cuisine, Customs, Art, Geography, History, and People.
What happens to rural communities when they become bedroom communities? Their culture is compromised. A schizophrenic identity crisis emerges as the bedroom community exists for the benefit of another community. The appeal of these smaller rural communities is the very attribute that is taken away when people begin to move into that community.
While I am not against the existence of exurbs, I am against the notion that a “bedroom community” mentality should be used as the first option presented by agencies as an answer to declining business and population growth in rural communities. It should be the last option.
Everyone should realize the greatest asset small rural communities have is their people. Existing exurbs have lost their original sense of who they are, and this creates a disconnect between people who are native and those attempting to acquire a better lifestyle than in the city.
What is the answer? Inevitably communities may become exurbs by growth in urban areas, but keeping their rural culture and identity alive needs to be the first priority. Rural towns cannot give in to a “bedroom community” mentality.
Contact: Michael L. Holton, firstname.lastname@example.org
or 402.687.2103 x 1015 for information.
President Bush Visits Omaha, Nebraska, to Talk about Immigration
Look further north for inspiration, an influential newspaper advises, and points to the Center’s work with Hispanic entrepreneurs
On June 7, 2006, President Bush visited the Juan Diego Center, a Catholic Charities program providing South Omaha residents with training, technical assistance, and loans for self-employment and small business opportunities. The president’s visit was intended to underscore his views on immigration. In his words, “One aspect of making sure we have an immigration system that works, that’s orderly and fair, is to actively reach out and help people assimilate into our country.”
The Omaha World Herald opined on the day of the president’s visit that he should “look north” to South Sioux City for a community that “illustrates what to do in absorbing immigrant populations.” The paper described South Sioux City’s leadership training, scholastic programs, and entrepreneurial development efforts with Latino immigrants. They mentioned the considerable success of the Hispanic Business Roundtable, an effort organized by the Center’s
Adriana Dungan, Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) Business Specialist for Northeast Nebraska.
We agree wholeheartedly that these initiatives have great merit and collectively make South Sioux City a community national leaders should carefully consider in the immigration debate.
The Center’s Hispanic Business Center, funded in part by a USDA grant, supports the South Sioux City Roundtable and similar efforts in other Nebraska communities such as Crete and Schuyler. REAP also provides training, technical assistance, lending, and other services to rural entrepreneurs across Nebraska.
REAP’s partnerships with USDA, SBA, and the Nebraska Department of Economic Development through Community Development Block Grants and the Nebraska Microenterprise Partnership Fund have made Nebraska a model for the nation when it comes to entrepreneurial development, especially in rural communities.
Therein lies the incongruity of President Bush’s visit. He visited the Juan Diego Center to talk, in part, about creating economic opportunities for Latino immigrants. The president’s budget, however, called for eliminating funding for the SBA Microloan Program, one of REAP’s largest funders and a tool that could be used, not just by Latinos, but by many entrepreneurs, rural and urban, to create a better life for themselves and their communities.
Bipartisan support exists in both the House and Senate for restoring SBA Microloan funding. Hopefully Congress will recognize what the president should have seen in Omaha – support for entrepreneurial development through the SBA Microloan Program is an important solution to the challenges faced by many communities, urban and rural.
Corporate Farming Notes
Ohio poultry permits in question; Arkansas paper investigates farm program payments
>> The Ohio Department of Agriculture is seeking to revoke all Ohio Fresh Egg permits due to misleading information in permit applications, providing a new twist in the decade-long struggle between Concerned Citizens of Central Ohio and the industrial poultry operation formerly known as Buckeye Egg.
The company did not disclose that Austin “Jack” DeCoster maintained management control over the operations. If they had, an investigation would have revealed DeCoster was a “habitual violator” of Iowa’s environmental laws, thereby disallowing the permits.
>> According to an Arkansas Democrat Gazette report by the newspaper’s Washington Bureau Chief
Paul Barton, the farm corporation established by Representative Marion Berry (D-AR) received more than $800,000 in farm payments since 1994. The structure of Marion Berry Inc. “might not have withstood close scrutiny by agriculture and tax officials.”
In 1994, Rep. Berry transferred stock in his farm corporation to his son Mitchell Berry and farm manager Danny Sloate. Giving Mitchell Berry and Sloate each 25 percent of the farm corporation allowed Rep. Berry to reduce his ownership while giving operational control of the farm and, theoretically, legal control of the corporation to Sloate. Barton wrote, “Experts on farm subsidies say the way Berry divided ownership kept his corporation eligible for payments even though he would no longer be living nearby.”
A unique buyback provision in Berry’s stock divestiture allowed him to reclaim either 25 percent for $5,000 at any time for any reason. This calls the validity of the transfer of ownership and corporate structure into question, along with the farm payments that were predicated on that structure and transfer.
According to Barton, Iowa State University Professor Neil Harl said the transfer of ownership should not have passed muster with the Farm Service Agency. Barton quoted Harl, “I’ve never seen anything as bald as [the buyback provision]. That undercuts the bona fides of the whole thing.”
Barton also wrote that the Center’s Chuck Hassebrook “said agreements such as Berry’s should prompt Congress to immediately address the Farm Service Agency supervision of farming corporations, saying the Agriculture Department too often fails to examine ‘the legitimacy of ownership transfers.’”
Contact: John Crabtree at 402.687.2103 x 1010 or
Nebraska’s SOS Petition: Don’t Sign Away a Fair Tax System
The Center has urged Nebraskans to refuse to sign a misleading petition that would ultimately raise
property taxes, close schools, and damage public services.
The petition would cap state spending growth at the rate of inflation plus population growth. It was initiated by out of state interests – an Illinois group called Americans for Limited Government, paying circulators $2.50 per signature. They must obtain 115,000 valid signatures by July 7. If they can get the signatures, they can buy the vote through an expensive barrage of big money advertising.
The proposal would force spending off of sales and income taxes down to more local units of government and on to property taxes, the most burdensome tax. Local officials would be forced to either slash local services or raise taxes on homes and agricultural land.
This proposal is akin to feeding your seed corn. It saves in the short run, but costs dearly in the long run. Its passage would not change the fact that health care, Medicaid, and correctional costs will continue to grow rapidly. As a result, it would starve some of our most critical long-term investments.
Hard fought gains in rural small business development, value added agriculture, and rural community grant programs would surely come under attack. State funding for education would almost certainly be cut – forcing higher property taxes and higher tuition. In the 21st century our success as individuals and our prosperity as a state depend more than ever on quality education. Under investing in education will ultimately cost, not save.
This effort is a perversion of the initiative petition process by monied interests. The process was originally created for grassroots initiatives, not for out-of-state interests to buy their way on to the ballot. If approached, tell them no and ask the circulator to stop pushing a proposal that will undermine our future and raise property taxes.
Winds of Change: Windmills Across Nebraska
Early in the year, a group of women from the Center met to discuss ways to engage women from across rural America for leadership roles in the revitalization of rural communities. From that meeting the Women’s Project for Rural America was born.
As a subsidiary of the National Rural Action Network, the WPRA will focus on rural community women in a targeted effort to engage them in revitalization of rural America through their broader engagement and involvement in policy awareness, discussion, and debate. Engaging women in this way will allow us to also focus on a key component of rural revitalization – youth.
Two questions emerged from our meeting. How will this endeavor be accomplished? How will we fund it? In response came the windmill project.
The first windmills literally meant LIFE. As a symbol of life there is a natural connection to them, the pioneer women whose lives they enhanced, and to women today as they lead their communities forward with a renewed spirit of hope and change.
By embracing a statewide public art project with the focus on windmills, artists throughout Nebraska will be participating in windmill designs. When talking about windmills and art, we include everything from quilts to the large working windmill.
Each community library will take an active role in hosting local art, writing displays, competitions, and forums on rural issues and windmill lore. Schools will be invited to have students participate in numerous curriculums including history, arts, and science.
We will engage all arts and tourism agencies to celebrate the abundance of artistic talent while encouraging visits to communities to view the artwork. All juried artwork will be auctioned with a portion going to the artists and to the communities for revitalization purposes.
As we engage all components of a community in this effort, we will appreciate the historical but focus on new life and new hope. Do you have an idea/story or artistic concept about windmills and their importance – from the antique to the new wind turbines? If so, please let us hear from you. Contact Barbara or Kathie at the Center,
402.687.2100 or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Interns Brighten Office
The Center has the privilege of hosting three college interns this summer. Their youth and enthusiasm is contagious – even sandwiched as they are in the food pantry and action rooms.
A native of Lyons, Nebraska, Rhea Landholm is a senior at Wayne State College, majoring in mass communications with an emphasis in journalism with a minor in editing and publishing. Rhea is working with the Center’s National Rural Action Network.
Jason McAlexander is also a student at Wayne State College, majoring in political science with minors in history and pre-law. Jason lives in Pender but was raised in Omaha while spending summers on the farm in Mound City, Missouri. He is researching the Stop Over Spending amendment and the Massachusetts health insurance law.
Malrie Winkelmann is working with our Heifer, Home Town Competitiveness, and beginning farmer projects. She is a farm girl from Waco, Nebraska and has her associate’s degree in Animal Science from the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis. Malrie is now studying Ag Business at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
Big Wind, Big Energy, Big Money
GAO report estimated a locally owned wind energy project would return $3.3 million annually to the locality compared to $650,000 if ownership is out of the area
Big wind turbines have reached the tipping point. After decades of skepticism, wind turbines are now recognized around the world as a clean, profitable alternative for fossil fuel powered generators. Tom Wind, with Wind Utility Consulting in Jefferson, Iowa, says the demand is so great that virtually all new units are sold out for the next two years. If you are in the market for a single unit, you may have to partner with a bigger development just to place an order.
It’s about money.
Today’s high energy prices, combined with concerns of future carbon taxes and emission restrictions, make wind energy attractive. Only wind power can provide electricity at a fixed price for the next 20 years.
Wind energy is cheaper too. In 2000, the publicly owned Austin, Texas, utility began a Green Choice program. Customers paid a slight premium for “green” electricity (wind power). Last fall, due to higher natural gas prices, conventionally produced electricity surpassed the cost of wind power, giving the Green Choice customers cheaper power.
Wind generates dollars for the local economy.
Wind power’s ability to hedge against future price hikes is surpassed by what it can do for the local economy – if it is locally owned. A 2004 General Accounting Office (GAO) report focusing on Pipestone County, Minnesota, showed a single “out of the area” owned 40 megawatt (MW) project would return $650,000 in new income.
If these turbines (2 MW each) were community (locally) owned, the county would receive $3.3 million annually. Economic comparisons using three counties in Iowa and two in Minnesota showed local ownership also produced 2.5 times more jobs and 3.7 times more local area dollar impact.
Financing can be a hurdle.
At a cost of about $1.4 million per MW, few individuals are able to finance a big turbine. The USDA Rural Development program can provide financial support (25 percent grant, 25 percent guaranteed loan), but first you need a feasibility study, which USDA will cost-share at 50 percent. The study will probably include: turbine cost (including construction and delivery), wind speed data, and power purchase agreement. The remaining financing should be available through a combination of local sources.
Knowledge is power.
Because most Rural Electric Cooperatives and municipal power companies lack experience buying local power, a power purchase agreement may be a challenge. Designed to serve the public, these agencies are vulnerable to public opinion and public pressure. They are also responsible for reliable power at a low price. Armed with economic data and examples of existing wind turbine interconnects, a reasonable solution will be possible.
Wind is a low quality energy resource. Captured by locally-owned wind turbines, it can be a high quality energy resource that can generate local wealth for long-term economic development. Instead of seeing it as a resource to be exported, a more sustainable approach is to consider it an economic magnet that attracts business and industry to the region.
You’ll find more resources at the Nebraska Energy Office Wind Resource site, http://www.neo.ne.gov/renew/wind-renewables.htm
and the Wind Powering America site, http://www.eere.energy.gov/windandhydro/windpoweringamerica/.
Contact: Martin Kleinschmit, 402.254.6893 or
email@example.com for more information
National Rural Action Network Advisory Committee Meets
The first meeting of the National Rural Action Network Advisory Committee was held in Kansas City in May. Thirteen of 16 members attended, and a vigorous discussion ensued.
Over a day and a half, the group tackled some difficult questions and helped put together the framework for the National Rural Action Network. Questions focused on how to get people involved in a nationwide network and how to make it personal enough to motivate people to become involved.
Leadership development by a cadre of individuals from various organizations was identified as a key component to a successful network. Training to help build an individual’s capacity to communicate successfully, to understand civic engagement, to relate with the media, and to bring others on board were identified as important.
Three additional members were also added to the advisory committee. They are Joe
Short, Northern Forest Center, Concord, New Hampshire; K. B. Rasmussen, Montpilier, Idaho; and
Ed Meyer, Kanab, Utah.
The Committee will meet again in Minneapolis on September 12 and 13, 2006, to create an action plan for the network. For more information, contact
Kathie Starkweather, 402.687.2103 x 1014 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Celebrating Rural Georgia
Celebrating Rural Georgia (CRG) will be held August 21-23, 2006, at the Marriott Hotel & Suites in Augusta, Georgia. Since 1998, CRG public and private partners have come together to focus on celebrating and improving all aspects of rural life.
For more information, contact Alec Young, email@example.com, with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
Thoughts on Hope and Rural Communities
I was deeply inspired by the following thoughts on hope from “Revitalizing Rural Communities: How Churches Can Help” by Frederick Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center and Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Iowa State University.
– Chuck Hassebrook
Is it true that rural America is populated with failed communities? Do they lack the inherent assets to be successful?
Of course we all know the answer to those questions is “no.” ... We still produce a lot of the social capital … – a strong work ethic, a sense of purpose, ingenuity, and dependability.
Rural communities also seem to be successful at producing leadership. Gregory Page, the current CEO of Cargill, Rick Schnieders, the CEO of SYSCO, Tom Brokow, for many years the news anchor for NBC news, Norman Borlaug, credited with inaugurating the Green Revolution all grew up and were educated in small rural communities in the Midwest.
But we must come to terms with the … spiritual dimension to community health. ... We have to get clear about what we mean by “hope.” Vaclav Havel, Paulo Freire, Wendell Berry, and Martin Luther King have all reminded us that hope is not confidence that things will turn out alright, but a commitment to justice even when there appears to be little to be gained by making that commitment.
Hope is a state of mind, not of the world, as Vaclav Havel put it when he was asked if he saw even a grain of hope anywhere in Czechoslovakia three years before he became its president and the country was still in a mess. Hope is not a belief that things will go well, he said, but a willingness to work for something because it is right.
It is in this sense that Rosa Parks stands as one of the great symbols of hope in our time. From the perspective of things turning out well, Rosa Parks could not have had any reason to be optimistic when she refused to go to the back of the bus on that fateful day in Montgomery, Alabama. Given the culture and power structures of the time the only outcome she could have expected from such a brash act was to be arrested and thrown in jail. But at some deep level in her soul she knew it was the right thing to do.
And then, as sometimes happens, a convergence of events took place that caused that simple act of courage and hope to change the world.
We are looking for people to act with courage to change the course of history in rural America. Please
join with us.
Agree or disagree? Send your opinions or comments to Chuck Hassebrook, 402.687.2103 x 1018 or
Farm Bill 2007: Research for Agriculture and Rural Communities
The Research Title of the 2007 Farm Bill must provide reinvestment in rural areas with more research focused on increasing the profitability of small and mid-sized farms and ranches by helping them tap into new markets, and more research investment in rural non-farm entrepreneurship and economic development strategies. The new farm bill must also increase investment in public plant and animal breeding – especially for sustainable and organic systems, an underserved area.
The 2002 Farm Bill answered the call to increase investment in rural communities and family farm and ranch profitability with the advent of the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Foods Systems (IFAFS) grant program, which increased funding for research into new markets, local and regional food system development, new crops, and rural community and enterprise development. Since that time, this program and many others relating to rural and family farm and ranch development have been severely cut.
It is time to reverse trends in rural poverty, out-migration, and lack of investment. The new farm bill must play an important role in fighting rural poverty by seriously reinvesting in research that helps rural communities, entrepreneurship and small business, and family farm and ranch enterprises.
The public invests in medical research to prevent and cure cancer or muscular dystrophy, not always for an instant payback but for the contributions to the body of knowledge those investments build, the lives saved or extended, and the problems they help solve in the future.
Much like our investment in medical research, agricultural and rural development research investments made today add to the body of knowledge we need to restore natural environments, treat and prevent water pollution, control pests in ways that do less harm to human and environmental health, and increase the success of farm and ranch families and rural communities today and long into the future.
With the new farm bill comes an opportunity to help shape agriculture and rural development approaches of the future and to instill principles of fairness and balance into our research agenda. The needs of small and mid-sized family farms and ranches, new generation co-ops, and small non-farm rural businesses are unique and underserved in today’s agriculture and rural development research agenda. Research initiatives should target an increased share of funding to these areas.
Of most concern in the Research Title is the program area relating to development of non-farm microenterprise and other rural development strategies, including the well tested and proven efforts at building entrepreneurship, self employment and small business development in rural areas, public plant and animal breeding, farm/ranch profitability, agricultural systems, natural resources, and environmental quality.
These areas are now receiving little or no funding under the USDA’s largest research competitive grant program known as the National Research Initiative (NRI). See our preliminary analysis of how well the NRI and IFAFS are serving small and midsize family farmers and ranchers,
http://www.cfra.org/pdf/GrantPrograms_Final.pdf. A full report is forthcoming.
The 2007 Research Title of the Farm Bill should focus on:
- National Research Initiative Funding Investments and Focus
- Reinvigorating Public Plant and Animal Breeding
- Rural Entrepreneurship Initiative – scaling up rural entrepreneurship training and other measures
National Research Initiative Funding Investments, Focus
The NRI should focus 33 percent of its funding on outcome oriented research much like that funded by the former Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems to improve future food production, family farm and ranch profitability, environmental performance, and non-farm microenterprise and other rural economic and community development strategies.
We suggest the Enhancing the Prosperity of Small Farms & Rural Agricultural Communities 66.0 program of NRI be increased from $5 million biennially to $9 million annually.
In making NRI grants to address “farm efficiency and profitability,” including “the viability and competitiveness of small and medium-sized dairy, livestock, crop, and other commodity operations,” the new farm bill should direct the Secretary of Agriculture to solicit proposals benefiting the full range of small and medium-sized operations, not limiting proposals to a small farm focus only, and to solicit proposals related to self employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for new and beginning farmers and ranchers. (Note: the quotes are direct quotes from the IFAFS statute.)
In making grants to address rural economic and community development, the new farm bill must give clear direction to USDA that grants should include agriculturally-based development, with particular attention to new markets, locally-owned value-adding enterprises, value chains that allow the passage of value from the consumer to the farmer, and self employment and entrepreneurial opportunities including entrepreneurship education and training.
The new farm bill should invest in a competitive grant program within NRI for long-term systems research focusing on agricultural and environmental interactions and the study and restoration of such systems. It should be funded on an annual basis at no less than $20 million.
Decline in public funding of plant and animal breeding and a rise in private funding has left a hole in education of the next generation of breeders as well as a gap in minor crops and breeds and longer term and systems research programming. Increased support is needed within the NRI for public plant and animal breeding for sustainable and organic systems.
Specifically, the new farm bill should include provisions for this type of research in the request for applications in the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service’s (CSREES) National Research Initiative. These programs should emphasize plant and animal breeding focused on local and regional adaptations for increased environmental benefits, food quality, and pest and pathogen resistance.
Recommendations for Reinvigorating Public Plant and Animal Breeding
Primary goals of U.S. agricultural research and policy programs should include: protecting genetic diversity; developing new plant and animal varieties that meet the needs of tomorrow’s agriculture – particularly those of sustainable and organic production systems; and maintaining a diverse, independent farming sector.
We therefore urge farm bill decision makers to:
>> Increase financial and personnel support for the collection, preservation, and evaluation of germplasm collections and encourage increased public use of the rich sources of genetic diversity in the U.S. germplasm collections.
>> Reestablish and implement the National Genetic Resource Program from the 1990 Farm Bill.
>> Establish a program area within USDA’s Agricultural Research Service for long-term research on plant and animal breeding, including the development of finished varieties.
>> Link existing competitive research and extension grants and rural development programs to food and agricultural systems that promote environmental stewardship and small and mid-sized farm profitability, genetic resource preservation, and participatory animal and plant breeding initiatives.
>> Increase public funding and other incentives for Land Grant Universities, including the 1890 and 1994 institutions, and for non-governmental organizations to maintain viable training and research programs for undergraduate and graduate students in the basics of classical plant and animal breeding. These programs should also be sensitive to the employment potential and needs of both the private and public sector job markets.
>> Increase federal formula funds and competitive grants expressly for the purpose of educating and training public plant and animal breeders. New legislation should include incentives for publicly funded and trained plant and animal breeders to remain in the public sector for 5 years through reduction of their school loan debts.
>> Establish incentive programs for farmers and farmer associations to participate in testing, selection, seed increase, and evaluation of plant varieties in germplasm repositories.
>> Increase funding for public breeding projects that include partnerships with nonprofit organizations and farmers and ranchers with a goal of increasing publicly available seeds and animal germplasm for sustainable and organic production systems. These partnerships could be based on the models developed by the Farmer Cooperative Genome Project, the Public Seed Initiative funded by USDA’s Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems, the Organic Seed Alliance, and the Organic Seed Partnership funded by USDA’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative.
Scaling Up Rural Entrepreneurship and Other Research Title Recommendations
We support the establishment and funding of a CSREES-administered competitive grants program for entrepreneurship education open to universities, extension services, community colleges, primary and secondary schools, and nonprofit organizations. Grants would support a broad range of purposes including training and technical assistance delivered directly to current and potential rural entrepreneurs as well as introduction of formal courses on entrepreneurship in primary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities.
The competitive grants should be awarded by review panels that have diverse representation from universities and colleges, Indian tribes, entrepreneurs, and nonprofit organizations.
We also urge the new farm bill to:
- Provide support for the information service Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA) at $5 million annually.
- Increase funding for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program which helps agriculture professionals in extension, farmers, and ranchers improve their outreach, training, farming methods, and knowledge of sustainable agriculture approaches.
Contact: Kim Leval, firstname.lastname@example.org
for information on the Center’s proposals for the Research Title of the farm bill.