Farm Bill should inspire even more bipartisan work


It is undoubtedly the best work of federal legislators in more than two years.

The now rare bipartisan vote of the Senate (68 to 32) provided the 2014 Agriculture Act, delayed by more than two years in decidedly partisan bickering. It is the legacy of Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the first chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee from Michigan in more than 120 years, as she noted in her post after passage.

The House of Representatives approved the legislation Jan. 29. President Barack Obama signed the legislation at Michigan State University late last week, appropriate not only for the institution’s history as the nation’s first land grant university but as Stabenow’s alma mater. The Act is of tremendous significance to the agri-business core in Michigan and has been awaited with a great amount of frustration.

The Farm Bill cuts spending by $23 billion and is universally seen as the most significant agricultural policy reform in decades. Most substantially, it eliminates direct payment subsidies farmers may receive for crops not being grown but provides expanded crop insurance amounting to $7 billion over 10 years. Further, it eliminates farm payments to non-farmers, as described in the story on page 3.

The Michigan Farm Bureau was not the least of those celebrating the landmark legislation, and in the same week it also found favor in Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed budget to provide $1.8 million in food and dairy inspections.

The Farm Bureau also made a point of proposed funding for road and bridge improvements and noted farmers depend on safe infrastructure to move products and commodities to and from farms and markets.

As has been widely reported, the federal Farm Bill cuts waste and abuse in food stamp programs, eliminating approximately $800 million per year, according to Associated Press reports, amounting to an estimated $90 per month reduction in food assistance on average.

When the Farm Bill bickering first reached fever pitch several years ago, a move was afoot to remove the attachment of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps. While other more urgent processes have been included in the legislation, food assistance remains an attachment. Separating the two is a worthwhile discussion for a future date.

Grievously, the Farm Bill may be the last product of bipartisan support for this Congress as election fever infects the already paralyzed legislators. It should, instead, be inspiration to continue such efforts.

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