RCAC board member testifies on Capitol Hill

February 22, 2012

Raitano testifying on Capitol Hill

RCAC board member, Dr. Florine Raitano, testified at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry on February 15 on behalf of RCAC and the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP).

She spoke about the importance of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development programs to rural America. Her testimony drew from her experience as the former mayor of Dillon, Colorado, the former executive director of the Colorado Rural Development Council and as the current chairman of the board for the Colorado Association for Manufacturing and Technology, Colorado’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership Center.

As the western RCAP, RCAC receives USDA Rural Development funding to provide technical, managerial and financial assistance to small, rural community drinking water and wastewater systems. These communities also receive funding from Rural Development programs for community facilities and affordable housing.

Raitano was introduced with praise for her work by a member of the committee, Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.). Mathias McCauley of the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments, Mark Rembert of Energize Clinton County [Ohio], and Charles Fluharty of the Rural Policy Research Institute testified with Raitano.

Raitano testifying

Raitano and the other panelists offered suggestions for improvement to development programs in rural communities. They emphasized the importance of regional collaboration and the need for flexibility within USDA programs to support regionalized development.

The panel also stressed the importance of technical assistance to small-town leaders and the Farm Bill’s opportunity to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of USDA-RD programs by offering comprehensive technical assistance through RD’s nonprofit partners. A robust technical assistance program would enable local leaders—especially volunteer mayors and city council members—to more effectively access the resources that are available to them for infrastructure, community facilities, housing and economic development.

Raitano’s panel was preceded by testimony from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. He noted the importance of USDA’s rural development and energy programs and the strategies USDA is pursuing to improve the quality of life in rural America. Many of the questions he faced from the committee related to the release earlier in the week of President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget recommendations, but some committee members took the time to ask specifically about USDA’s rural development programs. Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) questioned the secretary about the need for infrastructure to accompany the boom in oil and gas drilling in eastern Montana and western North Dakota.

Copy of Raitano’s testimony >>

Watch the hearing on video >>