Farm Bill for the future heads to White House

Obama to sign bill this week at MSU

OBAMA

OBAMA

WASHINGTON D.C. — The U.S. Farm Bill that has been debated for about three years is on its way to President Barack Obama’s desk after the Senate passed the bill 68-32 on Tuesday.

“In a strong bipartisan vote, the U.S. Senate came together to pass a comprehensive Farm Bill – legislation that will build on the historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, create new jobs and opportunities, and protect the most vulnerable Americans,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “As with any compromise, the Farm Bill isn’t perfect – but on the whole, it will make a positive difference not only for the rural economies that grow America’s food, but for our nation.”

Obama added that the bill contains a variety of commonsense reforms, including reforming and eliminating direct farm subsidies and providing assistance for farmers when they need it most, reducing the deficit without drastically cutting social programs. The bill would also support conservation, spur renewable energy development and incentivize healthier eating.

Obama will sign the bill into law on Friday during his visit to Michigan State University.

The bill sets the course for the next five years; it will expire in 2019.

The bill was originally authored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

“This isn’t your father’s Farm Bill. It is a bill for our future that grows our agriculture economy, helps provide greater access to healthy Michigan-grown foods, preserves our land and water, and cuts unnecessary spending. The Farm Bill is a rare example of a major bipartisan jobs bill and a bipartisan deficit reduction bill,” Stabenow said in a statement.

According to the Michigan Farm Bureau, the agriculture sector contributes more than $71 billion to Michigan’s economy and is the state’s second largest industry. Michigan is home to more than 56,000 farms covering over 10 million acres.

The bill is expected to save the federal government and taxpayers billions of dollars, some of that will come from cuts to the Supplimental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Stabenow said the savings associated with SNAP will come from a focus on fraud and misuse.

But not everyone is happy with the $8 billion in cuts to SNAP over the next 10 years.

“With the economy showing no consistent signs of growth, this bill will cause needless pain for so many of the most vulnerable members of our society, making monthly food allotments fall even further short of what is needed,” said Michael Petit, president of Every Child Matters Education Fund.

U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Iron Lake, voted in favor of the Farm Bill both on the House floor and in the House Committee on Agriculture.

“A lot of jobs in Northern Michigan depend on farming and agriculture, and it’s a vital part of our economy,” he said in a statement.

Improved crop insurance and food safety were among provisions Benishek was proud to support and helped add to the bill.

Agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, said the bill would allow farmers to confidently invest in the future.

“While no legislation is perfect, this bill is a strong investment in American agriculture and supports the continued global leadership of our farmers and ranchers,” he said.

Find out how the Farm Bill will impact residents of Manistee County in a future edition of the News Advocate.

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Posted by Justine McGuire

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