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The Federal Rural Development Advisory Committee is eliminated. 9. The Title V Small Farm Research and Extension programs would be extended through September 30, 1981 at the existing annual authorization level of $20 million.
10. With the exception of some other relatively minor language changes, the thrust of the Rural Development Policy Act of 1979, H.R. 3580, is basically the same as that of H.R. 10885 from the last Congress.
On April 24, 25 and 26, 1979, the Subcomittee on
The purpose of this letter is to advise you of
If you are interested in appearing as a witness at
Rural Development Policy Act of 1979
The Rural Development Policy Act will provide a statutory mandate for the Assistant Secretary's Working Group for Rural Development. The present Working Group was created by executive order after the Rural Development Act of 1972 was passed. Though largely inactive since that date, it has been responsible for a number of modest "White House rural initiatives" involving the coordination of federal programs affecting rural health, water and sewer, aging, and communications. It is anticipated that an additional initiative will soon be announced on rural transportation with a more comprehensive White House rural policy announcement scheduled for release in June.
Although these initiatives have been applauded as both appropriate and long overdue, there is a concern among many that these efforts still fall far short of the need to create a separate rural development focus and commitment throughout the federal establishment. On a limited scale, with previously isolated programs, these initiatives have proven that interagency coordination is both a necessary and a practical approach.
The Rural Development Policy Act seeks to expand and strengthen this effort. The Act will establish the Working Group in law, providing it with specific powers and responsibilities and subjecting this effort to Congressional oversight.
By establishing the Working Group membership in law and by charging the Group with the articulation of both annual and fouryear strategy reports, the Act accomplishes several objectives:
Currently only the Secretary of Agriculture has
As Chairman of the Working Group, the Secretary
objective. Likewise, the Congress and the
The present reporting responsibility requires
The Act also seeks to enhance the ability of both the Department of Agriculture and of other members of the Assistant Secretary's Working Group for Rural Development to participate in this interagency coordination process by providing appropriations authority for staff and other incentives for the creation of offices of rural development in other federal agencies. These offices can serve as a source of rural expertise for agency officials as well as for providing assistance to rural communities. Under the present arrangement, a separate rural policy focus and rural development analysis efforts must compete for the staff time and resources of agencies and departments which are already committed to other statutory responsibilities, thus inhibiting development of this effort.
The Act goes to great . lengths to insure that the rural development policy process established will be one that builds from the bottom
up, from the local to the national level, instead of following the more traditional inclination of the federal government to force localities to respond to federal priorities and centralist bureaucratic demands. Specifically:
the strategy required under this
level are stimulated by increasing
area-wide development plans. The Act seeks to reflect the expanded rural development mission of the Farmers Home Administration by changing the name of that agency to the Farmers Home and Rural Development Administration. The Act also repeals existing reporting requirements that are either inneffective or superceded by this Act.
Finally, the Act also provides a two-year extension of the Title V Rural Development Research and Extension, and Small Farm Research and Education programs of the Extension Service which expire at the end of this fiscal year.
The focus of rural development research and extension has up until this point been primarily that of applied research at the local level. In most cases, extension personnel have responded to specific local rural development problems faced by selected rural communities and have provided applied research assistance to them in an effort to develop appropriate solutions. The program has bęen hampered by a strict state by state funding formula and a very limited annual appropriation of $5 million. The Department is currently in a process of revising the title V program and will probably seek major changes in its design by next year. Consequently, the bill does not change the structure of the existing program, and provides only a two-year extension.
The Small Farm Research and Extension program which is also part of Title V was amended in the 1977 Farm Bill to provide authority to the Extension Service to hire local farmers to work as "paraprofessional" extension agents, concentrating on the practical needs of small farmers. This was based on highly successful efforts in Missouri and Texas which resulted in significant income improvement for small and limited resource farmers.