Support for the 6 percent
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) announced this past week he’s cosponsoring reauthorization legislation for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) that is part of the current federal farm program. His explanation for doing so is concise: “Farms and other rural businesses in Minnesota and across the country support millions of jobs and feed people all over the world – but they need a lot of energy to do so.”
We at Minnesota 2020 do not intend to flag bill introductions or co-sponsorships as Congress debates and ponders a multi-year 2012 federal farm program. But this provision, in which Franken teams with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), goes to the heart of a comment we made recently that should not be lost.
In the article “The Farm Bill and the 99 percent”, we noted that spending for USDA Rural Development programs and research at our public land grant universities is lumped in an “all other” category that accounts for only 6 percent of the current 2012 USDA budget.
There is no way we would quibble over percentages. The 74 percent of the budget that goes to human nutrition and feeding programs is desperately needed until the economy improves more and lifts more people out of poverty. Until that is achieved, it is actual dollars that count, not percentages.
What the Midwest senators are pointing out, however, is that the rural-based economy is an important energy consumer. Improving that efficiency and productivity is in all Americans’ interests, and that takes public investment.