Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

February 9, 2014

George Weeks: MSU right place to sign farm bill

President Barack Obama’s signing of the five-year farm bill at Michigan State University Friday underscored Michigan’s role on the world agricultural scene and MSU’s contribution to it.

Using multiple pens and with bill sponsor Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, standing to the right behind him, Obama signed the bill on the campus that in 1855 became the first agricultural land grant college in the nation — in 1909 becoming Michigan Agricultural College — MAC rather than the current MSU that it became in 1955.

A political touch: Behind Obama to the left at the signing was U.S. Rep. Gary Peters of Oakland County, who is the likely Democratic nominee in this year’s race to replace retiring Sen. Carl Levin.

A northern touch: Obama was introduced by Leelanau County fruit grower Ben LaCross of Cedar, a board member of the Michigan Farm Bureau, which praised the bill. He noted that until the bill, he had no crop insurance for his apple and cherry orchards.

Farm Bureau President Wayne H. Wood said: “We appreciate Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s determination and hard work in moving this legislation forward through so many challenges over the past few years.” He said she worked like a farmer “ to get it passed.

Obama said: “The farm bill is not just about helping farmers. It’s like a Swiss army knife” — providing a variety of benefits, including food stamps for the poor, crop insurance for farmers with devastated crops, support for farmers’ markets, biofuel developments, and expansion of rural broadband Internet.

While noting that the bill “helps make sure America’s children don’t go hungry” at home, he also touted farm exports.

Stabenow, a MSU graduate and former state legislator representing the Lansing area, said: “This is an economic development bill that’s going to help rural businesses get broadband so they can get more customers. This is a deficit reduction bill that saves taxpayers $23 billion.”

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