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House Ag Committee

Subcommittee Kicks Off DC Farm Bill Hearings
with Focus on Rural Development Programs


WASHINGTON – Today, Rep. Timothy V. Johnson, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture, held a hearing to review U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rural development programs in advance of writing the 2012 Farm Bill. This is the first of eight hearings, which will be held by the Subcommittees to hear from agricultural stakeholders before the House Agriculture Committee begins drafting the reauthorization of agricultural programs.

Witnesses at today’s hearing provided feedback on the programs administered by USDA’s Rural Development agency, which includes the Rural Business and Cooperative Service (RBS), the Rural Housing Service (RHS), and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS). Members heard from two panels of witnesses who explained how programs can be improved to increase their effectiveness. Further, witnesses testified that continued investments in water, energy, and broadband infrastructure are vital for enhancing the quality of life and economic opportunities for individuals living and working in rural communities.

“Getting our debt under control will take shared sacrifice. Every single component of federal spending needs to be examined for efficiencies and savings. As the Committee considers how to reauthorize current programs in the next Farm Bill, it’s important to seek ways to weed out activities and authorities that are either redundant or ineffective. In doing so, these programs would be made more accessible to applicants, reduce USDA’s administrative burden, and focus program resources on core responsibilities,” said Chairman Timothy V. Johnson (R-IL).

“Over 50 million people call rural America home, and if we truly want to build a 21st century economy, they must be part of the solution. Rural communities rely on the rural development programs to provide and modernize services and facilities. As we move forward with the 2012 Farm Bill, we are trying to target and leverage funds where they can be most effective, said Ranking Member Jim Costa (D-CA).

Written testimony provided by the witnesses is linked below. More information regarding the 2012 Farm Bill process can be found here.

Witness List:

Panel I

The Honorable Charles F. Conner, President and CEO, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, Washington, D.C.

The Honorable Donald Larson, Commissioner, Brookings County, South Dakota; on behalf of the National Association of Counties.

Ms. Leanne Mazer, Executive Director, Tri-County Council for Western Maryland, Frostburg, Maryland; on behalf of the National Association of Development Organizations.

Panel II

Mr. Frank Dunmire, Executive Director, Illinois Rural Water Association, Taylorville, Illinois; on behalf of the National Rural Water Association.

Mr. Robert Stewart, Executive Director, Rural Community Assistance Partnership, Washington, D.C.

Mr. David Rozzelle, Executive Vice President, Suddenlink Communications, St. Louis, Missouri; on behalf of the National Cable Telecommunications Association.

Mr. Mark Bahnson, CEO & General Manager, Bloomingdale Communications, Bloomingdale, Michigan; on behalf of the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association.


In Case You Missed It: Lucas Emphasizes Importance of
Giving Job Creators Access to Credit
House passes bipartisan bill H.R. 3336

WASHINGTON – Chairman Frank Lucas spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in support of H.R. 3336, the Small Business Credit Availability Act. The legislation will ensure that community banks can continue to responsibly manage risk and provide credit to America’s small businesses. It is one of six bills considered by the Agriculture Committee to bring balance to the Dodd-Frank rulemaking process. The legislation passed by a vote of 312 to 111.

The text of Rep. Lucas’s floor speech, as prepared for delivery, follows:

Mr. Speaker, I rise to voice my support for this bill. First and foremost, I’d like to thank my Committee’s Ranking Member, Mr. Peterson, and his staff for their diligent work on this bill on behalf of end-users and small business lenders. We have a long-standing tradition of bipartisanship at the Agriculture Committee and their work was invaluable.

I’d like to thank Representative Hartzler for her leadership on H.R. 3336 on behalf of small financial institutions and the businesses they serve.

I would also like to acknowledge and thank Representative Hultgren and Representative Boren whose legislation, H.R. 3527, will not be considered today. As a result of their leadership and Mr. Peterson’s support, many of the critical issues for end-users addressed in H.R. 3527 were resolved by the CFTC in its final “definitions rule.”

I think we can reasonably feel reassured that agricultural cooperatives and other end-users out in the countryside won’t be unnecessarily deemed “swap dealers” and regulated like the largest financial institutions.

As I said from the outset, if the CFTC, on its own, resolves concerns we have raised for months in our Committee room, we would not proceed with legislation. And that is what we’ve done with H.R. 3527.

However, concerns with the implementation of Title VII remain, and so we are here today to proceed with H.R. 3336. This bill addresses issues that are important to community and farm credit banks—organizations which are instrumental to the economic vibrancy of our towns and rural communities.

In the Dodd-Frank Act, Congress was careful to ensure that new regulations wouldn’t impose unnecessary costs on small institutions that might deter them from extending credit to businesses across America.

Small banks pose very little risk to our financial system. Within the banking system, 96% of the notional value of derivatives is held by the 5 largest banks. The very small remaining percentage of the derivatives exposure in our financial system is spread across hundreds of small institutions.

That’s why Congress never intended for these community lenders to be regulated the same as the largest global financial institutions.

This bill aims to restore Congressional intent by exempting small banks, credit unions, non-profit cooperative lenders and farm credit institutions from costly clearing requirements under Dodd-Frank. It also ensures that banks can provide can continue to provide risk management tools to their borrowers.

In addition, thanks to the leadership of Representatives Schilling, Owens and McIntyre, provisions in H.R. 3336 will ensure “captive finance affiliates” of manufacturing companies like John Deere and Caterpillar are eligible for the same exemptions as their parent companies and other end-users.
These affiliates are an important source of credit to consumers and businesses, and promote our manufacturing sector.

Lastly, through the hard work of Representatives Costa, Cardoza and Baca, H.R. 3336 clarifies that utilities will not be miscast as “swap dealers” because they enter into contracts that are required by state law. The legislation clarifies that complying with state laws alone won’t also draw new and costly federal regulations.

There are many Members on both sides of the aisle at the Ag Committee who have spent time getting this bill to where it is today. We have been careful not to create loopholes or stray from Congressional intent. The bill does not open the door for large financial players to evade regulation or engage in speculative or highly risky activities.

Mr. Speaker, in this economy, it all comes back to jobs. To create new jobs, businesses need access to credit to make new investments. This bill ensures that businesses maintain access to credit from community lenders.

So I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 3336, and ensure America’s small businesses can continue to access the credit they need to build our economy.

I yield back the balance of my time.


The Ag Minute: H.R. 3336 Ensures Community Lenders
Can Continue to Provide Credit to Job Creators

WASHINGTON – This week during The Ag Minute, guest host Rep. Vicky Hartzler discusses H.R. 3336, The Small Business Credit Availability Act, which she introduced to protect small lenders from regulations designed for the largest Wall Street banks and to ensure small businesses have access to credit and risk management tools. It clarifies derivatives regulations so they do not unnecessarily and unintentionally burden important sources of credit to consumers and businesses across the country. The bill passed in the House Agriculture Committee with unanimous support and will be considered today by the full U.S. House of Representatives.

Click here to listen to The Ag Minute. The transcript is below.

“For many farmers, ranchers, and other small businesses across the country, the community and farm credit bank serve as the lifeline for their operations.  Those businesses count on receiving a loan or a line of credit to buy new equipment or hire new employees. 

“But, some regulations within the Dodd-Frank Act could put that support in jeopardy because it would make it more expensive or nearly impossible for those community banks to use important risk management tools such as derivatives.  Further, some proposed regulations would burden small lenders with costly new regulations designed only for the largest Wall Street banks.

“With an already fragile economy, it’s so important that we do all we can to encourage economic activity rather than stifle it.  Having access to credit is critical for economic growth. 

“That’s why I introduced H.R. 3336, The Small Business Credit Availability Act to protect our community lenders from burdensome regulations that would limit the flow of credit to our job creators.

“H.R. 3336 is a common sense bill that clarifies Congressional intent and ensures that small banks, credit unions, and farm credit institutions can continue to use risk management tools, as well as continue to provide these tools for our farmers, ranchers, and small businesses.”

The Ag Minute is Chairman Lucas’s weekly radio address that is released from the House Agriculture Committee.

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