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Michigan Farmers have High Hopes for the 2018 Farm Bill

June 7, 2017

On May 6, 2017, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) joined Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) at a Hearing in Frankenmuth, Michigan to discuss the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill. In Roberts’ opening statement, he recognized that the agriculture industry faced particular hardship in the past year, with a national debt exceeding $19 trillion. Roberts urged that the industry learn to “do more with less,” stating, “We must be judicious with the scarce resources we have. We must ensure programs accomplish their fundamental purposes.” Pointing out how crucial the bill is to the Michigan economy in her opening statement, Stabenow said that the 2014 Farm Bill is anticipated to save the government $80 million and will bring attention to the fact that the food and agriculture economy supports 16 million jobs across the country, which includes one out of every four jobs in Michigan. She also said, “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.” With the 2014 Farm Bill expiring in September 2018, Michigan farmers were eager to express their wishes for the upcoming bill. At the hearing, entitled “Growing Jobs and Economic Opportunity: Perspectives on the 2018 Farm Bill from Michigan,” 16 witnesses from various cities in the State of Michigan testified. One prominent topic of discussion at the hearing was labor, specifically the shortage of workers to harvest crops on farms. Chris Alpers, a tree-fruit grower in Lake Leelanau, said, “Labor is the number-one issue on farms.” He also made reference to a delay in the H-2A visa program as a source of the problem. Another major topic of discussion was crop insurance. In response to concerns by Darrin Siemen, a fourth-generation farmer and owner of Prime Land Farm in Harbor Beach, in reference to the availability of crop insurance to dairy farmers, Stabenow said, “We’re working with the secretary to expand crop insurance. There is capacity to do that administratively through the crop insurance board. We’re working to see if we can get some help immediately this year.” In addition, Roberts promised that he would fight to protect crop insurance against budget cuts during the bill’s negotiations. In summary, throughout the bill’s negotiation process, Stabenow remains “committed to making sure that Michigan farmers and families have a voice in the process from start to finish.”

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