Drake University Law Professor Neil Hamilton, director of Drake Law School's Agricultural Law Center, testified recently before the full U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture in Washington, D.C.
Hamilton was one of eight witnesses to address the committee.
In his testimony, Hamilton made several recommendations to the committee for creating a sustainable farm bill. He encouraged the committee to:
- Implement programs authorized by the 2008 bill, such as the Individual Development Account pilot program, land contract guarantee loans and the Conservation Reserve Program Transition Option
- Develop a comprehensive approach or national commitment to helping the next generation of farmers
- Expand local and regional markets to create opportunities for farmers, improve food access and strengthen local economies
- Support mid-size family farms being impacted by market forces
- Establish a democratic "big tent" approach to America’s food and farming system
Hamilton, who has been involved with local marketing for years, placed heavy emphasis on the role policy can play in supporting small and rural markets.
"I encourage you to follow the pick-up trucks and vans back home to hundreds of small towns to see the day's sales being counted on the kitchen tables," Hamilton said. "Then you will see urban money flowing back to farms and rural towns where it is spent and invested by thousands of farms and businesses.
Neil Hamilton speaks at the forum.
"No, these farms will not feed the world, but they do help feed millions of citizens and support thousand of farm families."
Hamilton also spoke about the community of farmers, consumers and rural citizens who have become disconnected from one another because of today's food economy.
"In our food system we have severed many of the connections between people and their food and between farmers and consumers -- and we have paid a price for doing so," he said. "Efforts to build local and regional markets make good economic sense -- and help reestablish connections and increase understanding of farming. Local markets put a face on our food and benefit all farmers."
Hamilton also spoke as a panelist at the White House Clean Energy Forum, sponsored by the White House Council on Environmental Quality in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
He focused on the role of renewable energy as a form of rural development, local wind energy development and net metering. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack moderated the panel.
"It was an honor to be asked to speak to the gathering of individuals working to promote renewable energy as a form of economic development for rural America," Hamilton said.
The purpose of the event was to bring together and engage stakeholders, businesses and community leaders in a discussion about clean energy and agriculture.
The panel was part of a series of clean energy forums that the White House has organized with agencies including the:
- Department of the Interior
- Department of Transportation
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Department of Housing and Urban Development
The forum highlighted the benefits of clean energy, proposed and current climate legislation for rural America and agriculture and the administration's commitment to making the legislation successful.
The event also aimed to educate state and local agricultural officials as well as environmentalists and renewable energy companies about the environmental and economic benefits of renewable biofuels.