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USDA efficiency topic of Senate, House hearings this week

By JERRY HAGSTROM

Only days after the Senate voted to end ethanol tax breaks and the House voted to cut a number of farm programs in the fiscal year 2012 Agriculture appropriations bill, the Senate and House agriculture committees will hold hearings this week on the efficiency of USDA programs. All the hearings are intended as preparation for writing the 2012 farm bill.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., announced Friday that her committee's hearing will be held Thursday at 9:30 a.m. in Room G50 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building — an indication that interest in the subject is so large that the normal Senate Agriculture hearing room in the Russell Senate Office Building would be too small to accommodate those who wish to attend.

Stabenow said the hearing would be titled “Farm Bill Accountability: The Importance of Measuring Performance, While Eliminating Duplication and Waste.”

Stabenow announced the following witness list:

Panel 1: Obama Administration Agriculture Department officials
  • Undersecretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager
  • Acting Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse
  • Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment Harris Sherman
  • Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon
  • Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Joe Leonard

Panel 2
  • Lisa Shames, director of food safety and agricultural Issues, Government Accountability Office
  • Phyllis Fong, Inspector General, USDA
  • Brent Blankenship, Blankenship Brothers, Washtucna, Wash.
  • Masouda Omar, manager of business finance loan production, Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, Denver, Colo.

House Agriculture subcommittees will hold two hearings that House Agriculture Commmittee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., is describing as audits. The hearings will be held in Longworth House Office Building 1300, the main House Agriculture Committee hearing room.

  • The Conservation, Energy and Forestry Subcommittee will hold a hearing Wednesday at 10 a.m. to audit conservation programs.
  • The General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee will hold a hearing Friday at 10 a.m. to examine the crop insurance program.