Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

January 30, 2014

Farm Bill passage welcomed

TRAVERSE CITY — The Grand Traverse region’s representative for the Michigan Farm Bureau said the Farm Bill’s passage through the U.S. House of Representatives is great news for area farmers.

Northern Michigan Farm Bureau representative Ben LaCross said he closely followed the Farm Bill’s progress in the House this week: the House passed the long-delayed bill Wednesday with newly crafted crop insurance programs for fruit growers.

“Farmers are really looking forward to getting this behind us,” LaCross said. “We’ve worked through this for several years to rewrite farm policy in a way that’s good for the farm community, good for rural America and responsible for taxpayers, as well.

“Crop insurance is the major focus for this bill,” LaCross said. “It is one of our strongest opportunities to combat (weather-related) disasters. That, coupled with … research and trade access programs will really help our small specialty crops maintain their market share.”

House passage of the legislation was considered the biggest obstacle to passing the Farm Bill, which repeatedly floundered in Congress because of differences between Republicans and Democrats over food stamp program funding. The House version of the bill ultimately would cut about $800 million a year from the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program, or around 1 percent. U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow told the Record-Eagle in a conference call Tuesday she expects the legislation will quickly pass through the Senate.

The Farm Bill also has ramifications for the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center. Nikki Rothwell, coordinator of the center, said she and other staffers are in the midst of an extensive study on bee pollination of crops. The study has been hampered by a failure of Congress to pass the Farm Bill, which helps fund the research.

“We are trying to see what pollinators are out there in a variety of different crops – apples and cherries but also pumpkins blueberries and watermelon … and is there a way to supplement?” Rothwell said.

Rep. Dan Benishek, R-1st District, voted in favor of the House Bill.

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