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8.

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.

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On April 24, 25 and 26, 1979, the Subcomittee on
Family Farms, Rural Development and Special Studies will
hold hearings on H.R. 3580, the Rural Development Policy
Act of 1979. The hearings are scheduled to begin at
2:00 p.m. each day in Room 1301 Longworth House Office
Building, Washington, D.C. In addition, we have scheduled
a formal business meeting of the Subcommittee for May 2,
1979, at 10:00 a.m. in Room 1302 Longworth, for the
purpose of considering amendments to and adoption of
H.R. 3580.

The purpose of this letter is to advise you of
these hearings and to solicit your oral or written testi-
mony for the consideration of the Committee. Attached
you will find a copy of the text of H.R. 3580, as well
as a brief explanation of the bill and suggested questions.
You will also find a background paper attached to assist
you with any additional comments you may wish to make on
the substance of a national rural policy.

If you are interested in appearing as a witness at
these hearings, or in providing written testimony for
the record, please contact Jim Swiderski or Steve Adams
at (202) 225-2171.

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H.R.

3580

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.

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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:

a.

Currently only the Secretary of Agriculture has
the statutory responsibility for publication of
an annual "rural development progress report.
This Act will place a statutory responsibility on
each of the other federal agencies and departments
involved in the Assistant Secretary's Working Group
to also produce a rural strategy and to combine
and coordinate those efforts with other agencies
in a true interagency approach, which will focus
on the needs of rural communities and will seek to
eliminate unnecessary program gaps, overlaps, and
duplications.

As Chairman of the Working Group, the Secretary
of Agriculture will have a much stronger authority
and mechanism to insure compliance with this

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objective. Likewise, the Congress and the
public will also be able to demand more mean-
ingful participation.

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The present reporting responsibility requires
only a generalized description of problems and
activities significant to rural areas. The
language of H.R. 3580 will require that a
coordinated policy be announced that will coin-
cide with two existing policy processes, i.e.,
the four-year agenda of each new administraton,
and the annual budgetary process. The long range
four-year goals and objectives strategy statement
will be required to be submitted to Congress one
year after each new administration takes office
when such objectives and strategies are usually
being developed. To insure that these goals and
objectives are being pursued in good faith, an
annual report based on the administration's budget
request to Congress is also required.

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:

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1.

the strategy required under this
Act must include a process for insuring
that the needs and objectives of local
governments are followed and implemented
when federal dollars are spent in an area

whenever possible.
2. expertise and capacity at the local

level are stimulated by increasing
authority for Sec. lll rural development
grants from $10 million to $20 million
annually and by expanding its purposes to
include technical assistance to rural
communities, rural leadership development,
and production of formal community and

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.

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