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Former USDA leaders lay out farm bill ideas

Agriculture.com Staff 09/15/2006 @ 7:39am

Members of the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, convened a hearing Thursday to review federal farm policy with three former Secretaries of Agriculture.

The hearing marked the first time in the Senate ag committee's history that a panel of former agriculture secretaries testified before its members.

John Block, who served as Secretary of Agriculture under President George H. W. Bush, noted that a variety factors would likely shape the next farm bill including trade, energy and the budget deficit. He cautioned the subcommittee to approach the farm bill writing process with all of agriculture in mind, not just one aspect of the industry.

"It is necessary to remember that farm program reform is an evolutionary process, not a revolutionary one," Block said. "Sweeping reform cannot be made all at once, but well-thought out, meaningful reform can be made through cooperation and a shared motivation to improve things for all sectors of United States agriculture."

Clayton Yeutter, who oversaw USDA from 1989 to 1991, weighed in on the trade challenges facing legislators going into the next farm bill.

"I believe it is in our own self interest to seek to 'build a better mouse trap' in U.S. agricultural policy," Yeutter said. "I am not persuaded by the argument that we should 'keep doin' what we're doin’' for doing otherwise would constitute unilateral disarmament in the WTO agricultural negotiations."

Dan Glickman, Secretary of Agriculture during the Clinton administration, addressed the "five Rs" in his testimony about future farm policy: resources, research, riches, reform and right.

"If nothing else, farm bill debates have produced creativity and imagination -- more for the good, some just bewildering," Glickman said. I"f I have one piece of advice: produce clarity of basic policy choices."

The panel discussed energy issues, trade opportunities and agreements, research, rural infrastructure, commodity programs and disaster assistance. The subcommittee will continue to gather feedback from a variety of organizations and individuals involved in agricultural production throughout the remainder of the year.

Members of the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, convened a hearing Thursday to review federal farm policy with three former Secretaries of Agriculture.

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