By Kevin Walker
EAST LANSING, Mich. – The chairman and ranking member of the U.S. Senate agriculture committee recently hosted the first farm bill hearing at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) was joined by ranking member John Boozman (R-Ark.). A number of panelists and audience members joined the senators to begin hashing out priorities for the next farm bill, which is set to expire next year. Farm bills have a five-year cycle; the current farm bill began in 2018. Other notables at the hearing included Gary McDowell, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
“I appreciated the opportunity to join the senator as she works to make Michigan’s farmers, producers and other stakeholders’ voices heard and represented in this process,” McDowell said in an announcement. “The U.S. farm bill holds critical funding for Michigan’s key priorities around agriculture, conservation, rural economic development, research and forestry.” Forest related businesses are important both in Michigan and Arkansas, as Stabenow noted.
Farm bills have demonstrated a history of bipartisanship that is a rarity in today’s congress, Stabenow said. “Our most recent farm bill passed with the strongest bipartisan support ever. We want to do even better. This hearing represents a commitment to continue that bipartisanship and build an even stronger coalition of stakeholders for the 2023 farm bill. Our next farm bill must address the economic security of our farmers, our families and our rural communities by supporting a more resilient food supply chain.”
According to the Michigan Farm Bureau’s John Kran, there have already been a couple of farm bill hearings in the House. Kran said that everyone involved wants there to be a lot of support for the farm bill, in both rural and urban areas. At this point he said, there are a lot of unknowns about what’s actually going to be in the next farm bill. “I just want to add that there’s more talk about climate and conservation and how that fits in with everything,” he said. “We know these are going to be a topic of conversation.” Kran said he’s hopeful the next farm bill can be completed on time; at times farm bills have been significantly delayed.
In his remarks, Boozman described Stabenow as a veteran of the farm bill process who “understands the hard work it takes to pass this legislation. As we kick off this process, we are in an unprecedented time. Just think about the issues we are confronting. They truly are daunting: a receding pandemic, a brutal war in the breadbasket of Europe, record high inflation, record high fertilizer and input costs, record high crop prices, high food prices, labor costs, drought, transportation and supply chain issues. We have an opportunity in this farm bill to make sure we have the tools necessary to make American agriculture the trusted supplier in global markets. Over the next year and a half, I look forward to hearing from all of you who are touched by the USDA.”
There were a number of other panelists, including farmers and other businesspeople, who voiced their particular concerns. To see the entire three-hour event, go online at https://www.agriculture.senate.gov/hearings/, and scroll down to the list of hearings. Select the April 29 hearing, Growing Jobs and Economic Opportunity: 2023 Farm Bill Perspectives from Michigan. Panelists’ written testimony is also included.