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U.S. Ag subcommittee conducts hearing on Dordt College campus

By Jane Ver Steeg

The U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture conducted a field hearing at Dordt College in July to receive input from Iowans in formulating the federal 2007 Farm Bill.

Iowa Representative Steve King and North Carolina Representative Robin Hayes chaired the hearing. Formal testimony was received from ten farmers and agriculture industry promoters who shared their thoughts on how the 2007 Farm Bill might best promote American agriculture.

Iowa Representative Steve King co-chaired a field hearing  at Dordt College to obtain information for preparing the 2007 Farm Bill.

Iowa Representative Steve King co-chaired a field hearing at Dordt College to obtain information for preparing the 2007 Farm Bill.

Some of the topics covered during the field hearing included removing unfair trade barriers; decoupling farm production from subsidies; development of an animal identification database with trace-back capabilities for diseased animals; environmental and conservation issues; development of alternative renewable energy sources from agricultural products; funding of agricultural research; marketing ag products internationally; use of CRP land for controlled grazing; and helping family farms survive for future generations.

Iowa’s Fifth District is in the top five Congressional Districts for corn production, is the top producing district for soybeans and has ten producing ethanol and bio-diesel plants, with seven more plants in various stages of planning. This district is also a major producer of pork and eggs.

About a dozen field hearings are being conducted this year across the U.S., after which a farm bill debate will be conducted early in 2007. The current farm bill (Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002) expires Sept. 20, 2007.

“Members of the Dordt agriculture department were pleased that Dordt could host one of the field hearings,” said Dordt Professor of Agriculture Dr. Chris Goedhart. “The testimony was a reminder of the complexity of the Farm Bill and of the process needed to gain the support of a majority of congressmen for the bill in the coming year.”

Dordt College’s agriculture faculty provided commentary on the hearing for the college radio station's live broadcast of the hearings and for an audio feed to the Associated Press.

In a second national agricultural event this past summer, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns and Under-Secretary Tom Dorr spoke at a luncheon at Dordt College while participating in a three-day tour of conservation and economic development initiatives in the Midwest.

Farm Foundation hosted the tour to stimulate discussion about the issues and challenges of conservation and economic development in rural America. Dordt College President Carl E. Zylstra welcomed the group, noting that Dordt College has the second largest agriculture program in the state of Iowa. Zylstra said the college is committed to providing graduates who make a real difference by taking Christian responsibility for the care of our world.

The busload of tour participants included USDA and Natural Resources Conservation Service officials (who collaborated in offering the tour); state and regional business and community leaders; representatives of non-governmental organizations working on agricultural, food system or rural community issues; and past/present members of Congress.