Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today said that bolstering conservation and other critical Farm Bill programs will help to strengthen the $250 billion livestock industry – a major area for job and economic growth as the Committee moves forward in crafting a new Farm Bill. Stabenow, who held a hearing on the importance of conservation, food safety and promotion of America’s livestock sector, said livestock producers are developing innovative management practices that are strengthening the industry and protecting natural resources like the Great Lakes.
“The livestock industry represents a $250 billion industry which supports nearly 2 million jobs nationwide – and 40,000 jobs in my state of Michigan,” Chairwoman Stabenow said. “These producers are on the cutting edge of developing responsible and innovative solutions to address environmental and management challenges, while creating new economic opportunities that are boosting growth.”
Chairwoman Stabenow touched on some of the innovative practices livestock producers are developing to raise livestock while preserving the integrity of the land and protecting natural resources like the Great Lakes.
“Producers all across Michigan are taking an innovative and responsible approach to conservation thanks in large part to a voluntary certification process we have in Michigan called the Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program, which helps livestock producers adopt practices that manage animal waste and nutrient runoff,” she said. “A central piece of this effort involves accessing Farm Bill conservation initiatives like Environmental Quality Insurance Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program. And because of the work we have done in Michigan, MAEAP and conservation programs are helping farmers find regulatory certainty for the larger livestock operations. MAEAP is a great illustration of how government and producers can work together to find creative solutions to challenges our farmers face.”
Livestock producer Rick Sietsema, of Allendale, Mich., testified on the benefits of agriculture initiatives in helping livestock farmers grow the sector and great jobs, recalling in the late 1990s when turkey growers across the state faced hard times, after a major processor closed shop and cancelled contracts. “USDA Rural Development loan guarantees made it possible for the group of growers to get access to the needed credit to facilitate the construction of both a turkey processing facility, and a further processing and cooking plant,” he said. The group of growers developed a co-op that currently raises a quarter of the 4.6 million turkeys produced in Michigan and employs over 800 associates with a total payroll exceeding $18 million.
A panel of senior-level U.S. Department of Agriculture officials testified at the hearing, including Dr. Joe Glauber, Chief Economist; Dr. Greg Parham, Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; Mr. Alfred V. Almanza, Administrator, Food Safety and Inspection Service; and Mr. Dave White, Chief, Natural Resources Conservation Service. Other witnesses included Mr. Dennis O. Jones, Pork Producer, South Dakota Farmers Union, Bath, SD; Mr. Steven D. Hunt, Chief Executive Officer, US Premium Beef LLC, Kansas City, MO; Mr. Frank Harper, President-elect, Kansas Livestock Association, Sedgwick, KS; Mr. Michael Welch, President and CEO, Harrison Poultry, Inc., Bethlehem, GA; and Mr. Hans McPherson, Rancher and Member, Montana Farm Bureau, Stevensville, MT.