Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Roberts Hold First Field Hearing in East Lansing, Discuss Opportunities for Economic Growth, Job Creation

Farmers, Ranchers, Foresters, Academics and Community Leaders from Across Michigan Share Ideas on How to Strengthen Michigan Economy

East Lansing, Mich. – Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, the Committee’s Ranking Member, today held the first Farm Bill field hearing at Michigan State University in East Lansing, meeting with 15 witnesses from across Michigan to discuss how the Committee can bolster the 2012 Farm Bill to boost Michigan’s economy and create jobs.

“This hearing is officially the first field hearing of the Agriculture Committee on the 2012 Farm Bill. And in Michigan, where one in four jobs relies on agriculture, and where agriculture contributes over $71 billion to our economy, when we talk about the Farm Bill, we are really talking about a jobs bill,” Chairwoman Stabenow said. “Agriculture in Michigan continues to be one of the bright spots in our economy. Our agriculture sector has grown at a faster rate than the rest of our economy, and as Chair of this Committee, I am committed to keeping that momentum going. I’m focused on continuing supporting the great men and women of our state who work so hard, day in and day out, to produce a safe and abundant food and fiber supply that powers our nation’s economy.”

“I am pleased to join Chairwoman Stabenow in Michigan for our first field hearing,” Roberts said. “I look forward to learning, firsthand, the Michigan perspective on agriculture programs and the direction of the next Farm Bill. It will be critical to the committee’s work in drafting policies that provide producers and rural America with the tools necessary for success.”

Chairwoman Stabenow and Senator Roberts met with farmers, ranchers, foresters, academics and community leaders from across Michigan to discuss how a new streamlined approach to the Farm Bill can benefit Michigan’s economy. The fifteen witnesses, from all corners of the state representing nearly every area of the agriculture sector, offered insights into how the policies could be strengthened to better serve the people.

Chairwoman Stabenow noted the role the Farm Bill plays in Michigan, emphasizing the reach it has into virtually all sectors of the economy and all communities – rural and urban.

“We write farm bills to help producers in the face of real challenges and to conserve natural resources, to help real people and to help rural communities improve their economies and offer good jobs to their residents, and to help our nation take important steps towards a better energy future,” Chairwoman Stabenow said.

The fifteen witnesses included:


  • Dr. Lou Anna K. Simon, President, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
  • Dr. J. Ian Gray, Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
  • Dr. Thomas G. Coon, Director of Michigan State University Extension, East Lansing, MI
  • Mr. Clark Gerstacker, Corn and Soybean Production; Member, Michigan Corn Growers Association, Midland, MI
  • Mr. Ben LaCross, Cherry Production; Chair, American Farm Bureau, Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee, Cedar, MI
  • Mr. Ray VanDriessche, Sugar Beet Production and Conservation; Director of Community and Government Relations, Michigan Sugar Company, Bay City, MI
  • Ms. Julia Rothwell, Apple Production; Chair, U.S. Apple Association, Belding, MI
  • Mr. Ken Nobis, Dairy Production; President, Michigan Milk Producers Association, St. Johns, MI
  • Mr. Peter B. Blauwiekel, Pork Production; Member, Michigan Pork Producers Council, Fowler,MI
  • Mrs. Karen Serfass, Forestry Production; Past President, Michigan Forest Association, Dafter, MI
  • Ms. Kristen Holt, President, Quality Assurance International (QAI) and Senior Vice President, Food Safety & Quality, NSF International, Ann Arbor, MI
  • Mr. Eric Davis, Director, Food Initiative, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, Detroit, MI
  • Mr. Dennis West, President, Northern Initiatives, Marquette, MI
  • Mr. James Reid, Reid Dairy Farm, Grant Township, MI
  • Mr. David Armstrong, President and CEO, Greenstone Farm Credit Services, East Lansing, MI

An archived webcast of the hearing, as well as the witnesses’ testimony, can be accessed on the Committee’s website at