Monday, June 30, 2008

Bureaucracy and Farm Bill Implementation

Whenever there's a new program enacted, the question becomes which bureaucracy will implement it. The Sustainable Agriculture Coalition reports on the infighting in their weekly newsletter:

Farm Bill Implementation News: Two letters have been sent this week from Capitol Hill to USDA to clarify beginning farmer provisions in the new farm bill. On Thursday, House Chairman Peterson (D-MN) and Senate Chairman Harkin (D-IA) wrote to Secretary Schafer to provide a clear direction that the farm bill designates the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program to be administered by the Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service (soon to be renamed the National Institute for Food and Agriculture). The letter came in response to surprising news from the Department that the program might be assigned to either Rural Development or to the new Office of Outreach and Advocacy. The clear intent of Congress, supported by SAC, was for this program to go to CSREES.

On Friday, a letter from Senator Feingold (D-WI) and Chairman Harkin was sent to the Secretary to outline their intent, as the Senate champions for the new Office of Outreach and Advocacy and its Small Farms and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers sub-unit, regarding the placement and mission of the new office. SAC has been working closely with the Rural Coalition on the implementation of this new office, which also includes a sub-unit for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers. The newly-positioned and enhanced office will be at the executive level of the Department, reporting directly to the Secretary, not through any department mission area and Under Secretary.

The program sponsors want it placed as high in the bureaucracy as possible and in as sympathetic bureaucracy as possible. If the sponsors succeed, the bureaucrats naturally feel gratitude to the sponsors. It's a very different process than a public adminisration-type analysis of the logic and appropriateness of the bureaucratic setup.

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