Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today said the 2014 Farm Bill, which was signed into law in February, is a critical jobs bill that touches all Americans, and its swift and efficient implementation is essential to creating jobs, supporting the 16 million Americans already working in agriculture, and growing the economy. Chairwoman Stabenow’s comments came during a Committee hearing examining USDA’s ongoing implementation efforts. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack testified before the Committee.
“In many senses, the ‘Farm Bill’ is a bit of a misnomer, as we all know, because this bill affects all Americans in many different ways. This is a bill that takes critical steps toward changing the paradigm of farm and food policy,” Stabenow said. “We worked hard to make sure the Farm Bill represents the diversity of American agriculture – from row crops to specialty crops to livestock to organics to local foods.”
The Farm Bill represents the most significant reform to food and agricultural policy in decades, saving taxpayers more than $23 billion by eliminating unnecessary subsidy programs and transitioning toward a responsible risk management system that supports farmers only when there is need. The bill also streamlines and consolidates programs to end duplication and make programs more efficient. These reforms allow for the strengthening of key initiatives that help farmers and small businesses reach new markets and create American jobs.
Chairwoman Stabenow thanked Secretary Vilsack for being “a compelling advocate for passage of the Farm Bill,” and said the bill’s scope is broad and affects Americans in communities both rural and urban – which is why USDA’s implementation efforts are critical.
“We passed a very strong permanent livestock disaster assistance program … We have strengthened and expanded opportunities for crop insurance, the number one request of farmers across America. We have increased support for several organic programs, which is one of the fastest growing segments of American agriculture. We once again provided a strong specialty crop title – supporting nursery and floriculture as well as the fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other products you will find in the produce aisle of the supermarket … I'm very proud that this Committee and our Colleagues in the House worked together to give our farmers and ranchers the support they need to continue producing the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world.”
The bill makes historic investments in bioenergy production, research, local and healthy food initiatives, organics and protects critical assistance for families who need temporary help putting food on the table. The bill also represents the biggest investment the country makes in conservation programs and is supported by hundreds of conservation groups across the country. The Farm Bill strengthens existing conservation programs by increasing their efficiency, and creates new initiatives like the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which will bring together public and private funds to better assist farmers conserve land and water resources.
Notably, the bill emphasizes the need for greater agricultural research by creating a new foundation dedicated to boosting resources for continued agricultural innovation.
“I'm also very excited about the new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research that we created, which will combine public and private dollars to make sure we have the funding streams necessary to continue to solve problems and create opportunities through research and new innovation. This new Foundation really is about the future and I look forward, Mr. Secretary, to working with you as the distinguished board members are appointed and the Foundation begins its work.”