“We need to create diversity in our energy resources,” the senator from New Mexico told more than 1,500 agricultural Extension workers gathered for the National Association of County Agricultural Agents annual meeting in Albuquerque.

“We likely will continue to depend on natural gas for most of our energy needs, he said. “But we must develop new, clean types of electrical energy sources.”

He said the U. S. Congress should pass laws to cooperate with other nations to develop cleaner energy sources. “We also have to consider a second generation of nuclear power plants. And we must decrease pollution.”

Dominici said energy legislation should relieve emerging and developed countries from limiting economic growth because of energy restrictions.

The situation could be dire. “Since the peak of energy costs, U.S. consumers have paid an additional $38 billion for energy. That’s money out of our citizens’ pockets,” he said. “And prices are going up again. Clearly, we need a new energy policy.”

Dominici said agricultural economies have been hit hard by increased costs, such as energy, as well as a receding economy.

“Farmers have to be worried,” he said. “National policies for agriculture don’t seem to be working. We have a big job ahead of us to develop farm legislation that works. In 1996, we thought flexibility should replace the rigid farm policy. Since that law was enacted, the Federal Government has spent billions of dollars and seems to have made little difference.

“We have to look for new ideas,” said Dominici, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee before the Democrats became the majority party in June. “We would like for the farm bill not to cost so much, but the Congress will provide large sums of money for the next five years to support agricultural programs.”

He said “annual emergency appropriations” cannot be the answer to long-term farm policy. “We need a new law to take care of a volatile situation.”

Dominici said part of the problem comes from a stagnant world economy. “The world is not growing, and U.S. farmers are producing a surplus. We’ve been in a quasi-recession and we’re not out of it yet.”

The New Mexico senator said the government continues to work with a budget surplus, “the second largest in history this year and a projected third largest next year. And that’s with an economy that’s not at full pace.”

He said the “NEW ECONOMY, in bold letters, forces every industry to economize. Businesses, including agriculture, must increase productivity and efficiency.”

e-mail:rsmith@primediabusiness.com.