W.Va. Senators cosponsor bill to rename U.S. Department of Agriculture

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senators from West Virginia and Virginia have introduced legislation that, if passed, would rename the federal Department of Agriculture.

The bill would change the department to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. While not making any changes to the current practices of the department, the senators believe the new name will highlight one of the department's missions: Providing rural communities with access to critical resources.

The department also provides financial resources and technical assistance to rural communities via loans, loan guarantees and grants that help support economic development.

The legislation was introduced Tuesday by the four senators who represent West Virginia and Virginia, Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va, Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Mark R. Warner, D-Va., and Tim Kaine, D-Va.

Capito spoke about the importance of the department's rural efforts for a state like West Virginia and how the change would be reflective of them.

"USDA plays an instrumental role in improving the lives of millions of Americans living in rural areas — especially in states like West Virginia," Capito said. "The department has provided West Virginians access to increased broadband connectivity, improved health services and critical infrastructure and remains an important partner in these and other efforts.

"Renaming USDA will make it possible to recognize the agency’s role in creating more economic opportunity in rural communities, as well as its increasing role in rural development."

Manchin echoed this sentiment, mentioning that the department's efforts are a key to keeping rural communities on pace with the rest of the country.

"Today, the Department of Agriculture does more than provide assistance to farmers; it provides residents in rural areas in West Virginia with financial and technical assistance to confront the challenges many areas currently face," Manchin said. "That’s why I believe the department should be renamed and known for the services it should be focusing on, such as improving access to critical infrastructure, broadband, telecommunications connectivity, capital, health care and other essential resources.

"Last year, I co-chaired the Appalachia Initiative where I discussed ways to address the challenges the rural communities in West Virginia face. This legislation will help shine a light on the Department of Agriculture’s vital work to ensure rural America does not get left behind."

By:  Michael Lemley
Source: WVNews