Bill Northey, USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Talks Rural Broadband, Conservation and MoreWed, 20 Nov 2019 15:16:28 CST
At the end of this past week at the National Association of Farm Broadcasters Annual Convention, Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays caught up with Bill Northey, Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation in the United States Department of Agriculture.
When it comes to Rural broadband, agricultural leaders have marked this as a high priority. Northey agrees, "It really is, and first of all, itís a challenge. Itís a challenge to have broadband where it's expensive to put fiber in the ground. Itís a challenge to have it where there's not a lot of folks, and yet we know agriculture needs broadband and high-speed internet so badly." The good news is there's been a significant commitment resource money wise to try and move the needle. Northey says, "There has, the total funding by Congress has been 600 Million dollars to USDA. This is run through the rural development part of USDA, and they are matching dollars by the local providers, either in loans or grants. We sure hope that this is successful enough that Congress will want to put more dollars into it in the future as well because the need is certainly great."
Northey also talked about the Historic MOU that was signed arlier in the month in Tulsa with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It would help tribal leaders and tribal producers improve their ability to access conservation programs and make a difference. Northey adds, "It was a great event. It was tribal leaders from all over the country and hosted by the Cherokee nation around conservation issues. So traditionally, there's a role that the Bureau of Indian Affairs plays in helping tribes and managing land. What this does is allow us to continue to work directly with tribes on the differences. Each tribe has a different interest, has different land, and it's important for us to be able to work directly with them, and this does that."
Northey has always had the conservation component, and farm program components on his radar. How are those programs doing? Northey says, "We are bringing leadership together, we are bringing their state conservationists, state executive directors from FSA together, and our regional office managers from RMA and I think policy-wise that has gone very well. We are still improving what we are doing on the back office things. The Human Resources, and reining of offices. We are bringing all together to coordinate that effort, and that is going to be good in the long term. That has been a challenge to put all together, and that's coming."
As for implementation of the 2018 Farm Law, Northey believes they have made huge strides. It's only been a little over a year that they have had the Conservation and business center, and they continue to work closely, "We are really working together. Our leadership meets together multiple times a week. We look at IT investment together, we talk about rules that we implement off of farm bill together, and lots of things where we are creating better coordination." echoes, Northey.
Undersecretary Northey and Ron talk these issues and more. Listen to the complete interview by clicking on the listen bar.
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