Feb 11 2016
As Chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, Congressman Hal Rogers (KY-05) examined funding for programs within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as oversight hearings began with the submission of the Fiscal Year 2017 budget this week.
Rogers applauded USDA's commitment to the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative through the Rural Development Community Facilities loan program and the Business and Industry guarantee loan program. He also commended Secretary Tom Vilsack for his efforts to address the rampant abuse of prescription painkillers and heroin in rural communities.
"I think we can all agree that this drug problem is unique and requires a collaborative, all-hands-on-deck approach. A holistic approach incorporating law enforcement, treatment and education," said Rogers, detailing the success of Operation UNITE in Eastern Kentucky. "I look forward to having another warrior on the battlefield as we continue the fight to save lives."
Secretary Vilsack was recently charged by the President to lead the USDA's new "Rural America Opioid Initiative." The effort is intended to address the 76% shortage in mental illness and substance abuse services in rural areas.
"White males in rural America are dying at a younger age and they are dying because of poisoning and suicide," said Sec. Vilsack. "The goal is to raise awareness of the problem, to ensure the folks who need help are going to get help, to prevent unnecessary deaths as a result of overdose, and to equip first responders with the knowledge and the medications that are successful. "
Secretary Vilsack will deliver a keynote address at the 2016 National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit, hosted by Operation UNITE, in March.
Despite these highlights within USDA's budget proposal, Rogers questioned some of the items included in the request. In particular, he cited concern with efforts to create new, duplicative programs during a time when the federal budget is crunched, especially since the agency has proposed to decrease funding for long-standing initiatives, like the Business and Industry Loan and Grant program, with a proven track record of success.
"This program has helped create new jobs in my region by helping companies secure the financing they need to establish, expand or modernize rural businesses," stated Rogers.
Click here to watch the USDA-RD budget hearing for fiscal year 2017.
(NOTE: Rogers' opening statement begins at 21:25 and his questions begin at 31:30)
Rogers has served Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District since 1981. With a focus on economic development, job creation, fighting illegal drugs and preserving Appalachia’s natural treasures, he has a reputation for listening to his constituents and fighting for the region he represents. For more information, visit http://halrogers.house.gov/ or follow Rogers on Twitter, Instagram or on Facebook.