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CSG South

This presentation was given by Sujit M. CanagaRetna, Senior Fiscal Analyst at The Council of State Governments' Southern Office, the Southern Legislative Conference, as testimony before the Alaska House of Representatives Ways & Means Committee (via Conference Call), July 14, 2005.

CSG South

The current farm bill reauthorization takes place in an environment more heated than any in recent times. Trade and budget concerns combined with growing domestic fiscal policy demands will make the 2007 Farm Bill a very difficult piece of legislation to craft. Public and political engagement in agriculture has declined as the number of Americans living on farms has steadily dropped over the past several decades. This translates into a considerably weaker political position for agriculture as farm policy competes at the table with numerous other sectors of the economy. To make sense of some of the complexities associated with the crafting of the 2007 Farm Bill, this document will explore a few of the major forces shaping the Farm Bill debate.

CSG South

The severe economic distress of the 1980s produced an interest in state action to help rural citizens and communities. One result of that interest has been the creation of statewide offices and agencies whose primary mission is to study rural concerns and develop policy options to address rural needs.

We are again in an era when interest in such offices is at a peak level. Four state “rural centers” were created in 2004. Another has been created this year in Indiana, and a serious effort in Alabama fell just short of success. The current level of interest led SLC to form a Rural Development Task Force, and the Task Force encourages states to consider establishing such centers. As an aid to such efforts, the Task Force offers these profiles of four rural centers in the South: North Carolina, Louisiana, Maryland and Texas.

Severe weaknesses in the financial health of the nation’s public retirement systems rank as yet another force currently buffeting state and local government finances. Further compounding the problems faced by these public retirement funds are the following developments: the precarious financial position of private sector pensions and the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation; the looming shortfalls expected in the Social Security and Medicare programs in coming decades; and the low personal savings rates of most Americans, coupled with the high rates of consumer and household debt. Given that the baby boomer generation is rapidly nearing retirement age and that America’s senior population is growing faster than the number of younger workers needed to cover their retirement needs, policy-makers across the country are paying a great deal of attention to this unfortunate confluence of events.

CSG South

2004 marked the 20th anniversary of the Southern Regional Project on Infant Mortality, a joint effort by the SLC and the Southern Governors' Association. This special series report reviews the successes and failures of the past 20 years and assesses the work of the Project. It also compares statistical data on the various preventative programs and measures available in each state, and highlights the current basic government provisions used to curtail the infant death rate.

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