Ranking Member Stabenow Hosts Farm Bill Field Hearing in Michigan

Saturday, May 06, 2017

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry, today released the following opening statement – as prepared for delivery – at the Farm Bill field hearing in Frankenmuth, Mich. entitled: Growing Jobs and Economic Opportunity: Perspectives on the 2018 Farm Bill from Michigan.


Stabenow’s statement, as prepared for delivery, follows:

First, I’d like to thank our witnesses for taking time out of their weekend to be with us for this important hearing.

And I want to say thank you to Chairman Roberts for once again making the trip to our beautiful state and spending time with some of Michigan’s amazing agricultural, conservation and local food leaders.

Mr. Chairman, I know that Kansas farmers have had a rough start to the year with both wildfires and more recently a late season blizzard that decimated your wheat crop.

And I'm so pleased that I was able to introduce you to some of our very generous Michigan farmers who donated their time and resources to deliver hay to Kansas ranchers after the devastating wildfire earlier this spring.

Please know that Kansas farmers have the support of everyone here today. Whether it’s a wildfire or late frost in Kansas, or a warm winter or hail storm in Michigan, farmers more than anyone else know the danger that weather changes pose. 

In fact, as I always say, agriculture is the riskiest business there is.  No other business is so dependent on the weather report for their success

But farmers also have grit, determination, and passion for what they do and for that we are all very grateful.

Mr. Chairman, I know that you and I and our Senate Committee will follow the example of these farmers and keep all of agriculture working together so that we can continue building our Farm Bill coalition and pass a 2018 Farm Bill.

Everyone who came here today understands how important the Farm Bill is in Michigan. But many people outside of agriculture don’t know just how critical the Farm Bill is to our economy.

I’ve always said that we don’t have an economy unless we make things and grow things – and the Farm Bill plays an important role in that.

The food and agriculture economy supports 16 million jobs across the country. Here in Michigan, agriculture is our state’s second largest industry, supporting 1 out of every 4 jobs.

We last passed a Farm Bill in 2014—signed by President Obama right here in Michigan. And I made sure that Michigan was reflected on every page.

The bill made responsible, bipartisan reforms to streamline more than 100 programs and save taxpayers billions more than expected.

The Bill goes a long way to support Michigan families who have been growing food for many generations through expanded crop insurance. But it also creates new opportunities for beginning farmers to enter the field, including our veterans.

It helps our $720 million specialty crop industry access stronger risk management tools to protect their crops from future disasters.

It connects our producers to new markets to sell locally to their neighbors, and also around the world.

It invigorates the economies of small towns and rural communities through bio-based manufacturing and upgraded infrastructure. 

It helps to put food on the table for families who have fallen on hard times.

It brings tourism dollars to our state through significant investments in conservation that protect our Great Lakes and waterways.

It supports cutting-edge research to advance and safeguard our food and agriculture economy, like the groundbreaking work that’s happening right here at MSU’s extension.

Congress considers the Farm Bill only once every five years – and the 2014 Farm Bill that has done so much for our state is set to expire next fall. Just as in the last bill, Michigan will continue to have a voice in the Farm Bill process from start to finish.

Going into the 2018 Farm Bill, we know things have changed over the past few years. Low prices have pinched margins and made it tough for many producers to make ends meet.

Right off the bat, we know we need to strengthen our farm safety net – particularly for our dairy farmers.

Throughout the process, I will again be focused on the needs of Michigan producers and our state’s small towns and rural communities, like my hometown of Clare.

The CBO estimates that the Farm Bill will save $80 billion more than we expected, primarily because the economy is getting better and fewer people need food assistance.

We know the Farm Bill has done more than its fair share to reduce the deficit.  Any further cuts would be detrimental to farmers and families.

That's why over 500 groups, including some of the groups represented here today, agree that we should not make new cuts to the Farm Bill.

Writing a Farm Bill is no simple task. And we certainly can’t do it alone, which is why we are all here today.

Throughout the hearing, we’ll hear from a wide variety of witnesses who reflect our state’s unique food and farm economy.

Believe it or not -- many people outside of Michigan don’t think of us as a farm state. But we in Michigan take great pride in our agricultural diversity.

If you grew up eating chocolate covered cherries at the Cherry Festival, and picking from the wide variety of fruits and vegetables our farmers markets have to offer, or driving along highways flanked by sugar beet, corn, dry beans and soybean fields – you know what our state is capable of growing. 

Michigan is the second most diverse state in the country in terms of what we grow. And the strength of our agricultural economy is rooted in that diversity.

We were able to make sure Michigan agriculture was strongly represented in the last Farm Bill thanks to the support and input we received and the broad coalition that came together to support our comprehensive, bipartisan bill.

In order to ensure Michigan continues to have a strong voice in the process, we will need to continue the tradition of working together to support our jobs, farmers and families.

I'm confident we can achieve that goal.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.