Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, told reporters Thursday that the 2007 Farm Bill needs to be "more balanced" and "reform-minded," emphasizing the importance of rural development.
"First and foremost, ramping up production of biofuels and other alternative energy sources will continue to be a major shot in the arm to the rural economy. We can also do much more," he says.
"We need to continue the value-added product development grants. These grants have been very successful in encouraging rural business ventures to add value to farm commodities and products, whether for energy or for a whole host of other products.
"Likewise, we need a strong venture capital program to jump-start investment in new, job-creating enterprises in rural communities."
Harkin also calls for expanding broadband to rural towns and into the countryside; providing better access to other amenities such as day-care and assisted-living facilities; helping rural hospitals stay up to date; and providing electricity, clean drinking water, and wastewater treatment.