Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, announced that Dennis Engelhard, a farmer from Unionville in Tuscola County, will testify before the Senate Agriculture Committee this week at a hearing examining the role specialty crops and organics play in American agriculture - with a focus on his suggestions for policies to help specialty crop farmers grow in the next Farm Bill. Engelhard, who is a fourth generation family farmer, produces corn, soybeans, wheat, sugar beets and edible beans - on the same land that his family homesteaded in Unionville in 1892. The term specialty crops refers to all fruits and vegetables, as well as tree nuts, nursery crops, and floriculture.
"Agriculture is Michigan's second largest industry, and fruits and vegetable production is at the center of that industry," said Chairwoman Stabenow. "We've got to ensure U.S. agriculture policy is made with fruit and vegetable growers at the table. As we move forward in writing the Farm Bill, I'm going to continue reaching out to farmers and producers like Mr. Engelhard to make sure their voices are heard in Washington."
From cherries, blueberries and apples to squash, cucumbers and asparagus, specialty crops play a major role in Michigan's agriculture sector, which is the state's second largest industry supporting one out of every four jobs. With the exception of California, Michigan leads the nation in crop diversity, growing and producing more than 200 unique commodities - many of which are unique to the region. The hearing, "Opportunities for Specialty Crops and Organics in the Farm Bill" will look at the role these specialty crops are playing in Michigan's, and the national, economy and discuss opportunities to bolster the sector.
Mr. Engelhard will share the farmer's perspective with the Chairwoman Stabenow and the Committee, and discuss where he sees opportunities for growth in the specialty crops sector as work on the next Farm Bill is underway. The Farm Bill, authored by Chairwoman Stabenow and the Committee, is a critical jobs bill that sets national agriculture policy every five years.
Before 2008, the U.S. Farm Bill focused mainly on commodity crops such as corn, wheat and soy. Senator Stabenow was able to get the first ever specialty crop title in the 2008 Farm Bill, to help ensure Michigan fruit and vegetable farmers were treated the same as farmers in other states where commodity crops dominate. The 2008 farm bill extended the same support to fruit and vegetable farmers that other farmers already received, such as initiatives to help strengthen operations and add jobs, control crop-killing pests and disease, support the research of new agriculture technologies at research centers like Michigan State university, and provide trade assistance for farmers impacted by unfair trade practices.
The hearing will take place on Thursday, July 28 at 10:15 a.m. EST and a live streaming webcast will be available for viewing on the Committee website http://ag.senate.gov.