U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today announced critical support for Michigan farmers and producers across the state. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant Program will provide over $1.2 million to support 20 Michigan specialty crop projects throughout the state. These projects include support for apple, asparagus, blueberry, grape, cherry, Christmas tree, onion, and potato growers throughout the region. For a complete list of Michigan projects, please visit www.ams.usda.gov/scbgp.
Today's announcement is a direct result of Senator Stabenow's work during the 2008 Farm Bill, when she authored the first section of a Farm Bill in history that provided support for so-called "specialty crops" - fruits, vegetables, nursery products, and floriculture. Before that, farm bills focused largely on commodity crops like corn, wheat and soy, but had no section dedicated to fruits and vegetables. Chairwoman Stabenow is also the author of the 2013 Farm Bill that strengthens support for fruit and vegetable growers.
Chairwoman Stabenow said: "This is welcome news for Michigan agriculture, our state's second largest industry and a major cornerstone of our economy. I wrote the first specialty crop title ever in the 2008 Farm Bill, which provides our farmers with tools like these to protect, market, and export their crops. This announcement is a prime example of why a new Farm Bill that strengthens this kind of support is vital for Michigan's economy."
Michigan produces a wider diversity of crops than any state but California, including many fruits and vegetables. Fruits, vegetables, nursery, and floriculture are a major cornerstone of Michigan's economy, generating $1.4 billion in economic activity. Michigan is the national leader in the production of over 18 types of crops, and Michigan specialty crop production has increased 33 percent in the last decade. Overall agriculture is Michigan's second largest industry.
Chairwoman Stabenow's 2013 Farm Bill includes strengthened support for Michigan fruit, vegetable, and nursery growers. The Farm Bill passed the Senate in June by a wide bipartisan vote of 66-27. The current Farm Bill expires on September 30, in less than a week, putting future support for specialty crop producers in jeopardy, and creating a tremendous amount of uncertainty for Michigan's agricultural sector.