Sen. Debbie Stabenow worked tirelessly to do something rare in this Congress—actually get some work done by passing a bipartisan piece of legislation with the Farm Bill. One disappointing part of this entire, excruciatingly dragged out process is that the bills passed more than a year ago by the full Senate and the House agriculture committee contained more progressive measures than the one that is now headed for President Obama’s signature in East Lansing on Friday.
Astonishingly, the House leadership decided not to bring its own agriculture committee bill up for a vote at that time, leaving American farmers in limbo for yet another year.
While there are measures we wish would have made it to the final bill that has just been passed, we’re pleased that it includes renewal of funding for programs that only started to see serious funding in the 2008 Farm Bill—renewable energy, beginning farmers, organic farming, local food economies, and support for farmers who grow the food we really need to eat, fruit and vegetables. The bill also includes a new farm to school pilot program to explore fruit and vegetable purchasing alternatives in eight states.
While many members of the House wanted to separate SNAP spending (food stamps) from the Farm Bill, it is instead preserved there. And the links between what people need for nourishment and what farmers grow and can make a living at growing is strengthened by the inclusion of funding for programs like Double Up Food Bucks, which in Michigan is doubling the money of SNAP recipients when they spend their food assistance at farmers markets.
While still a small slice of the Farm Bill spending, it is a positive direction, and those who pitched in by writing letters or speaking out in some way should know they made a difference and that we have something to build on.
When President Obama visits Michigan on Friday to sign the Farm Bill, we will be focused on that progress forward, and on Sen. Stabenow’s deserved recognition for solidifying a more expansive reflection of agriculture in our country.