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Chairwoman Stabenow on Growing Jobs and Economic Opportunity: 2023 Farm Bill Perspectives from Michigan

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, held the first field hearing of the 117th Congress on the 2023 Farm Bill at Michigan State.  Stabenow was joined by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), the committee’s Ranking Member, to hear input from a diverse range of agricultural producers and stakeholders about the next Farm Bill.

“Our most recent Farm Bill passed with the strongest bipartisan support ever,” said Senator Stabenow. “Senator Boozman and I continued that strong bipartisan tradition today at this first field hearing. We heard from farmers and others impacted by the Farm Bill about how we can strengthen this important legislation, grow our economy, and meet serious new challenges facing our country. Michigan is second in the nation for our diversity of crops and home to our Great Lakes, forests and diverse communities of all sizes.  Today’s witnesses and those submitting testimony provided important and insightful input as we begin the process of writing a new bill.   I look forward to joining Senator Boozman for a field hearing in Arkansas to hear from stakeholders in his home state.”

“The Senate agriculture committee has a long history of working across party lines to produce strong farm bills. The tradition of starting the process off with field hearings in the states of the chair and ranking member sets the tone for putting stakeholders first as we begin farm bill deliberations. I thank Chairwoman Stabenow for holding this very informative hearing, and welcome the valuable input we received from our witnesses. There is simply no substitute for getting out of Washington and hearing directly from those impacted by our decisions. I look forward to convening our field hearing in Arkansas, as the Natural State’s agricultural, forestry, conservation, rural development and nutrition communities have plenty of ideas to share with Chairwoman Stabenow and myself,” said Ranking Member Boozman.  

Selected excerpts from witness testimony:

“There is perhaps no greater time to be in involved in research pertaining to sustainable and nutritious food production and improving health and nutrition. We need solutions that will keep our food supply healthy, safe and secure, while protecting our natural resources. Since the need is constant, the food and agricultural industries – especially in Michigan, the U.S.’s second most diverse agriculture state – provides great opportunities for economic prosperity, growth and increased employment.” – Dr. Kelly Millenbah, Interim Dean, Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

“My father, John King, purchased the first 80 acre farm with a 100% loan for beginning farmers through the USDA. As a young bachelor, with no family history in agriculture and no seed money or equity to speak of, this Farm Bill program was the only way that he could realize his dream of being a cherry farmer.” – Juliette King McEvoy, King Orchards, Central Lake, Mich.

“Thank you, Chairwoman Stabenow, for leading the push to continue to grow the biobased economy through programs like @USDA’s BioPreferred® program. There are over 1,000 biobased products made with soybeans that can be utilized by federal agencies and private consumers alike, ranging from cleaning supplies to asphalt sealant to running shoes—and all made with ingredients grown right here on Michigan farms.” – Jake Isley, Stewardship Farms, Blissfield, Mich.

“Stress in rural America is not talked about enough, which is unfortunate, because it’s a problem we can only solve by working together. I am thankful to this committee for stepping up in the farm bill and reauthorizing the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, which aims to connect those working in agriculture to stress assistance and support programs.” – Ashley Kennedy, Sheridan Dairy, Bad Axe, Mich.

“When we opened The Delft, Northern Initiatives used the Intermediary Relending Program to help us purchase our kitchen equipment. Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program funds helped finance many of our rural neighbors and to provide those businesses the technical assistance to manage their cash flow and market their goods and services. Since 1994, Northern Initiatives has provided 1,507 loans totaling over $88 million and helped to create or retain nearly 7,000 jobs. Nearly 85% of these loans have been to small businesses in rural Michigan.” – Tom Vear, Donckers and The Delft Bistro, Marquette, Mich.

“The Emergency Food Assistance Program not only supports food banks and the people we serve, but also has a strong impact on the farm economy as well. TEFAP bonus commodity purchases also provide support for agricultural markets when market support is needed and provides food banks with access to additional healthy food to distribute to communities and individuals in need.” – Dr. Phil Knight, Food Bank Council of Michigan, Lansing, Mich.

“Support from USDA Local Agriculture Market Program grants has provided critical resources so that we can support growers in our region, and amplify our impact by training workers and leaders in the institutional food service arena with skills that they can use to further grow demand for local food.” – Rosie Florian, Kalamazoo Valley Community College ValleyHUB, Kalamazoo, Mich.

“I believe that agriculture has a place for all types of farmers. Food security through environmentally responsible, domestic production and distribution in my opinion should be viewed as the number one priority in America. No one should have to worry about the basic necessity of life, Food. The American farmer is up to the task.” – Steve Ewald, Ewald Farms, Unionville, Mich.

“Our region clearly has the potential to be an example of what can be done, right now, to address food security and climate change, and the federal government can be assured that there is a network of organizations in place to make it happen. We have the necessary elements to make it work: prime agricultural lands; enthusiastic skilled farmers; a direct sales and distribution network; training and mentoring programs for new and beginning farmers; and local farmers willing to serve as test sites and mentors.  For all of this to successfully come together, we must have federal program and financial support. Our region has much in place, but continuing this work and ensuring we retain our agricultural lands and keep our farmers and ranchers viable hinges on a strong Farm Bill conservation title.” – Glen Chown, Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, Traverse City, Mich.

“We have built two hoophouses through the USDA Natural Resourced Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program. While this program’s funding has been dramatically outpaced by the cost of materials (even before the current inflationary pressure), it is arguably the most popular NRCS program amongst growers like us. Few things can transform the productivity and profitability of a small market farm faster and more efficiently than a hoophouse or greenhouse.” – Brian Bates, Bear Creek Organic Farm, Petoskey, Mich.

“Once the Double Up Bucks program was created and shoppers realized that shopping at farmers markets gives them more bang for their buck our farmers and vendors saw a huge increase in sales. Consistently each year, the Double Up Bucks Program pays out $110,000 to our farmers and produce sellers at our market alone on top of the SNAP/EBT, credit and cash sales. It is a win-win-win; people are comfortable coming in and learning about the food that is being grown, using their benefits to purchase it for their families, thereby increasing our farmers’ stream of income.” – Karianne Martus, Flint Farmers’ Market, Flint, Mich.

“The Agriculture Committee provided invaluable help to animal agriculture in the 2018 farm bill through the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program. Thank you all for your leadership in support of the barnyard.” – Dr. Joe Sullivan, Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch, Saranac, Mich.

“I am proud to say that I am a Southeast Michigan farmer. I, along with two generations before me, were born and raised in a small factory town on the edge of Metro Detroit called Romulus. During the height of the housing crisis, I saw my local economy collapse and my friends, family, and neighbors plunged deeper into poverty and causing many local businesses to close, including our local grocery store. At that moment, the weight of the situation fell onto me, and at the age of 18, I knew that I wanted to grow food for my community and build a more resilient food system on the values of food access, mutual aid, and sustainable community focused growth.” – Alex Ball, Old City Acres, Belleville, Mich.

“We appreciate Senator Stabenow’s ongoing support of conservation programs in the Farm Bill. She has championed historic investments in farmer-led conservation to protect our Great Lakes and waters and understands that American agriculture is part of the solution in addressing climate change. Senator Stabenow created RCPP in the 2014 Farm Bill and pushed to triple mandatory funding in the 2018 Farm Bill to expand conservation partnerships. These partnerships will leverage nearly $3 billion in new private sector dollars over the next decade.” – Allyson Maxwell, Peter Maxwell Farms, Beaverton, Mich.

“The programs and funding associated with the Farm Bill are absolutely necessary for our communities to not only address concerns related to our natural resources but also in helping to increase food security for our people.” – Rachel Lyons, Bay Mills Indian Community, Brimley, Mich.

“The Farm Bill authorizes programs to support and train beginning farmers, including the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which, thanks to Senator Stabenow’s leadership, received permanent mandatory funding in the 2018 Farm Bill. This Farm Bill program could be used to train future generations of indoor growers.” – Marisa Jacobs, Square Roots, Inc., Wyoming, Mich.

“Imagine the resiliency and vibrancy of a foodshed that supplies locally grown, sustainable, nutrient-dense food to some of our most vulnerable populations: hospitals, prisons, schools and inner-city areas like Detroit and Flint. Star of the West knows this can be achieved and we are excited to see how the next Farm Bill can help us nourish our families, communities, and states through a climate smart foodshed.” – Lisa Woodke, Star of the West Milling Co., Frankenmuth, Mich.