Monday, June 11, 2012

President Obama Endorses Farm Bill; New White House Report On The Rural Economy

Administration spotlights small business efforts; highlights from the report...
President Obama on Monday personally endorsed the Farm Bill during a series of interviews with media outlets in swing states that have large rural populations. He will also announce plans to invest nearly $2 billion in rural America by the end of fiscal year 2016, the White House announced.

To mark the one-year anniversary of the White House Rural Council, the Administration also released a joint report from the Council of Economic Advisers, the White House Rural Council and the US Department of Agriculture that details Administration efforts "made in the agricultural economy." It shows that more than $400 million has already been invested this fiscal year in small businesses in rural America, the White House said.

"As we continue to fight our way back from the deepest economic crisis in generations and build an economy that lasts, rural America is helping to lead the charge,” President Obama said in a statement about the investment.

“On farms and ranches; in towns and communities across this country, rural Americans know that we are stronger as a people when everybody gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules. Those are the values we need to return to, and as long as I’m President, my Administration will continue to give our rural communities the support and investment they need to show us the way.”

Titled "Strengthening Rural Communities: Lessons from a Growing Economy," the report can be downloaded here [PDF].

It covers the wide-ranging projects going on in America's rural areas, from clean energy through farming and ranching. It builds on last year's report from the White House Rural Council, Jobs and Economic Security for Rural America [PDF].

For agriculture, the Administration defines a small business concern as an operation with annual receipts that may not exceed $0.5 to $9.0 million, depending on the agricultural product. For all other small businesses, click here for a review of the tables.

The White House noted with the release of the report that during last August's White House Rural Economic Forum, President Obama announced a commitment to invest in rural businesses through the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program, "at no cost to tax payers." The more than $400 million detailed in the report was through the SBIC program, the White House said. A chart with the details of the investments are here [PDF].

Farm Bill...
In an 11-minute interview with Brownfield, President Obama said he is “supportive of the Senate farm bill" and added, "hopefully we can get this done before the end of the end of the year.”

The current Farm Bill expires on September 30. He also noted that he toured the rural Midwest last August and said he was releasing the reports because it is important for Americans to know that a president follows up on his promises.

The President also said he believes the Environmental Protection Agency has improved communications with farmers and that the agency has been able to protect the American people while not “overburdening” farmers. Listen to the interview here. More than 80 amendments have been submitted to the Farm Bill since the Senate voted 90-8 last week to proceed. The list of the amendments.

The President on Monday gave interviews to local TV anchors from battleground states as part of the “Live from the White House” series, the President will speak in the Cabinet Room with outlets from Roanoke, Virginia, Jacksonville, Florida; Greenville, South Carolina; Sioux City, Iowa; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Reno, Nevada; and Fresno, California. The interviews are embargoed until 5:00 PM EDT, and are closed to the rest of the press.

From the White House, highlights from the report:

*Innovation: Innovation in U.S. agriculture has kept America’s farms among the most productive in the world. U.S. farm sector income reached a nominal record of $98.1 billion in 2011. Adjusting for general inflation, real farm income in 2011 recorded its 3rd highest level in the last 50 years.

*Exports: While many sectors of our economy are running trade deficits, American agriculture has enjoyed a trade surplus, with record levels of farm exports at $137.4 billion for fiscal year 2011. Yet, it is clear that still more can and should be done to boost agriculture exports. The President’s National Export Initiative has opened new markets for U.S. agricultural products and services and contributed to a historic level of agricultural exports. Once fully implemented, free trade agreements passed under this Administration with Korea, Panama, and Colombia are projected to boost U.S. agricultural exports by $2.3 billion per year.

*Clean Energy: The Administration has pursued polices that promote domestic energy alternatives like biofuels, bioenergy, and wind power to provide new opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and forest managers. Pursuit of an all-of-the-above clean energy and energy efficiency strategy saved Americans a projected 6.5 billion kWh – enough energy to power over 590,000 homes for a year – and nearly doubled the amount of installed wind energy generation in the U.S. over the past three years from about 25,000 MW in 2008 to 47,000 MW in 2011.

*New Industries: The Administration has supported new industry diversification within the agricultural economy. The retail value of the organic industry grew to $31.4 billion in 2011, up from $21.1 billion in 2008. The number of operations certified organic grew by 1,109 – or more than 6% – between 2009 and 2011.

*Community Investment: The rural economy has been strengthened by investments in over 6,250 new community facilities. Additionally, over the last three years, 12,000 USDA grants and loans have been issued to assist over 50,000 rural small businesses.



Photo by Christopher Dilts/Obama for America