Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow today joined with Michigan agriculture, conservation and healthy food leaders to call for Senate passage of her Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (a.k.a. "the Farm Bill"). Stabenow's Farm Bill will reduce the deficit $23 billion dollars by eliminating unnecessary direct payment subsidies, consolidating programs to end duplication, and cracking down on food assistance abuse. These reforms will allow agriculture initiatives critical for Michigan to be strengthened.
Stabenow was joined by Jim Byrum, President of the Michigan Agri-Business Association, Phil Korson, President of the Cherry Marketing Institute, Gildo Tori, Director of Public Policy for Ducks Unlimited Great Lakes/Atlantic Region, and Dr. Oran Hesterman, President and CEO of the Fair Food Network.
Chairwoman Stabenow said: "When we grow things here and make things here, we create jobs here. With agriculture supporting nearly one in four Michigan jobs and 16 million jobs nationwide, this Farm Bill is a jobs bill. This Farm Bill represents the greatest reform of agriculture policy in decades. The bill ends unnecessary direct payment subsidies, consolidates programs and cracks down on fraud and abuse. With these reforms we saved billions that allowed us to strengthen initiatives that are effectively helping farmers and businesses create new Michigan agriculture jobs."
Jim Byrum, President of the Michigan Agri-Business Association, said: "Sen. Stabenow has fought consistently for reforms that will help Michigan farmers increase production and deal with increasing demand, and this Farm Bill deserves Congress' fullest support. Sen. Debbie Stabenow deserves credit for her support of major efforts to modernize and streamline farm policy that will ensure Michigan and U.S. agriculture can continue to grow and feed the world. Michigan agri-businesses view this draft Farm Bill as a blueprint for how U.S. and Michigan agriculture can continue to compete in today's economy."
Phil Korson, President of the Cherry Marketing Institute, said: "We really appreciate the Senator taking time today to speak with us. She has always been supportive of Michigan's Fruit Farmers and been willing to reach out and help. Today she is in a key position as Chairwoman for the Senate Ag Committee. The Farm Bill is vitally important to Farmers and this Bill will have a big impact on all specialty crop growers."
Gildo Tori, Director of Public Policy atDucks Unlimited, said: "Ducks Unlimited is pleased that the 2012 Farm Bill before the Senate includes key conservation elements such as the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program and a new regional partnership program that contribute to soil, water and wildlife benefits. This program will incentivize collaboration among federal, state and private partners to target and focus conservation efforts in watersheds to improve water quality and reduce sediment, giving landowners and the general public a bigger bang for their buck. Hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers will benefit as well, due to the increased conservation efforts on working lands."
Dr. Oran Hesterman, President and CEO of Fair Foods Network, said: "We applaud Chairwoman Stabenow for including provisions in the Senate Farm Bill to help more Michigan families buy healthy food from our local farmers markets, which also helps boost our economy. Thanks to Senator Stabenow's tireless leadership, these common sense, bipartisan provisions will benefit our Double Up Food Bucks recipients, strengthen the program, and provide growth opportunities for American farmers."
Stabenow recently introduced the 2012 Farm Bill for consideration on the Senate floor. Stabenow was joined by top Agriculture Committee Republican Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) in introducing the bipartisan Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act. The Senate Agriculture Committee approved the bill with a strong bipartisan vote of 16-5.
The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 would reduce the deficit by:
§ Finally ending direct payment farm subsidies, meaning farmers will no longer be paid for crops they are not growing; will not be paid for acres that are not actually planted; and will not be paid when they are already doing well. Instead farmers will only receive support in the face of actual price or yield drops. Crop insurance will be strengthened to ensure farmers are protected from being wiped out by a few days of bad weather.
§ Cracking down on fraud and abuse in food assistance programs so resources are used for those who truly need them. For example, the proposal would take lotto winners off of food assistance, stop misuse by college students, and crack down on benefit trafficking.
§ Making agriculture initiatives more cost-effective-eliminating over 100 programs and authorizations in the agriculture committees' jurisdiction while still largely accomplishing the same goals and making programs easier to use. For example, 23 existing conservation programs are consolidated into 13 while still maintaining the same tools currently available to protect our land and water-even increasing investment in top priorities like Great Lakes Protection.
The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 would help farmers, ranchers and small business owners create jobs by:
§ Expanding export opportunities to help farmers sell in new markets
§ Strengthening research and other initiatives to support innovation among American fruit and vegetable growers-particularly important to Michigan as our agriculture sector is based more on fruits and vegetables much more than many other states.
§ Helping family farmers sell locally, increasing support for farmers' markets and spurring the creation of food hubs to connect farmers to schools and other community-based organizations.
§ Providing training and access to capital to help beginning farmers to get off the ground.
§ Creating initiatives to assist American veterans in starting agriculture businesses.
§ Helping new bio-manufacturing businesses (which use agricultural products to replace petroleum-based plastics in manufactured goods) start, and existing ones expand
§ Spurring advancements in bio-energy production
§ Extending rural development initiatives to help rural communities grow their economies
More detailed summaries and the full text of the 2012 Farm Bill is available on the Senate Agriculture Committee's website: http://www.ag.senate.gov/issues/farm-bill.