By Bernie Eng
By Senator Debbie Stabenow
When most people hear about the “Farm Bill” they think it’s only about farmers. But the bill we recently passed in the Senate, with an overwhelming bipartisan majority, is about so much more.
Making things and growing things – that’s what we do in Michigan.
Last week, I was in Burton at the Landaal Packaging Systems plant, where they are making packaging products like biodegradable coolers from corn starch. They, and other innovative companies in Michigan, have found a way to bring together the top two sectors of our state’s economy to create even more good-paying jobs.
That is why the Senate’s recent passage of the Farm Bill is so important for our farmers, small businesses, consumers, and so many people whose jobs depend on the strength of Michigan agriculture.
As Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I worked very hard to bring Republicans and Democrats together to pass this bill that includes major reforms. We are finally ending direct payment subsidies that go to farmers even when they aren’t planting a crop.
We went through every page to get rid of duplication and waste – cutting spending by $23 billion. We cracked down on fraud and abuse in food assistance programs—by stopping lottery winners from gaming the system and confronting other misuse, we saved four billion dollars in food assistance without cutting regular benefits for families who truly need it.
And we strengthened our conservation efforts with a new Great Lakes regional partnership.
By eliminating over 100 unnecessary programs or authorizations and making programs work smarter, we cut spending overall while still investing in top priorities that help create jobs—like supporting the innovative work of Landaal Packaging and other companies that are trying to create jobs all across Michigan.
What they do is called bio-based manufacturing – taking things we grow here in Michigan and making them into finished products and materials that replace chemicals and petroleum. The Farm Bill will help these companies get the capital they need, improve marketing of these kinds of products, and help get them to market.
This is especially important for our colleges and universities that are making the scientific and technological breakthroughs that make this kind of manufacturing possible.
We are also supporting innovative bioenergy companies, like the Swedish biogas plant at Flint’s wastewater treatment facility that converts waste into energy. Companies like this are using food and agricultural waste to help reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
The Farm Bill will also help Michigan farmers whose crops were devastated by bad weather this spring. It is estimated that 90 percent of our cherries, 90 percent of our apples, and 95 percent of our peaches were lost this year because of frost and freezes.
That is why our bill includes a new effort to help Michigan fruit and vegetable growers get access to crop insurance. We want to make sure that family farms are not going bankrupt because of a few days of bad weather.
This is not your father’s Farm Bill. We wrote this bill in a way that is sadly all-too-rare in Washington these days – by sitting down around a table and working out our differences. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Leader said on the day of the vote that it was “a very fine day in the recent history of the Senate.”
It is unfortunately pretty rare for Congress to come together like this and get something done, but this is a great exception. This Farm Bill is great news for bipartisan cooperation, achieving real spending cuts, and creating Michigan jobs.
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By Bernie Eng