Traverse City Record-Eagle

Op-Ed Columns

May 26, 2013

George Weeks: Stabenow toils in trenches for farmers

In recent weeks, I have noted Michigan lawmakers on Capitol Hill who are on the frontlines dealing with assorted scandals of the day.

Six-term Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan’s longest-serving senator and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has dealt with the attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya, as well as the sexual assaults in the military.

His brother, 16-term Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, is ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by 12-term Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland, which held a high-profile hearing on IRS targeting of conservative groups.

Seven-term Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, chairman of House Intelligence Committee, is a national TV regular on homeland and foreign security issues.

While the above mentioned lawmakers have had media attention dealing with current front-burner scandals, three-term Sen. Debbie Stabenow has made recent significant progress in dealing with a decades-long scandal—the nation’s antiquated farm policy that dates back to the 1940s.

The system, Stabenow Communications Director Cullen Schwarz said Friday, has been “bad for farmers, bad for taxpayers.”

Last week, after Stabenow’s bipartisan farm bill won a 15-5 committee approval, the Senate began consideration of provisions that, she says, strengthens programs for farmers producing specialty crops, including cherries, while yielding $24 billion in spending cuts, and “ends fraud and misuse in food assistance.”

Of special interest Up North, the bill strengthens support for farmer’s markets and expands authority to support innovative local food enterprises like food hubs. Stabenow said, “the bill also supports local food projects like urban greenhouses, community gardens, and community-based nutrition for low-income families that held address community food security and support local economies.”

There’s quite a push in Detroit these days for urban gardens, as there was back in the Detroit mayoral days of Hazen S. Pingree, who, before he became Michigan’s 1897-1900 governor, instituted an innovative depression-relief program that included giving people vacant city land and seeds for what became known nationwide as “Pingree’s potato patches.”

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