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.”
Gov. Rick Snyder also weighed in: “Michigan’s $96 billion food and agriculture sector continues to be one of our state’s leading economic mainstays. …Clearly Michigan is poised to remain among the top agricultural states for decades to come. The farm bill helps to provide certantity for one of our most vital industry sectors.”
Snyder complemented Stabenow, as did Michigan League of Conservation Voters Executive Director Lisa Wozniak. She said that for the first time in 18 years, the bill requires farmers to comply with conservation provisions, such as preserving native wetlands or controlling soil erosion, in order to receive subsidies for crop insurance.
“The farm bill calls for some of the most significant federal investments in conservation programs, and we are proud to see those put into law in Michigan today,” Wozniak said after the MSU signing.
Annual Sno-Mo Outing
State Reps. Frank Foster, R-Pellston, and Peter Pettalia, R-Presque Isle, organized a Feb. 7-8 northern Michigan snowmobile outing of a dozen fellow lawmakers to highlight the region’s winter recreational opportunites.
The tour was promoted initially — from the Soo to Keweenaw--in the late 1900’s as an annual event by then-Rep. Jason Allen, R-Traverse City, and then-House Speaker Rick Johnson, R-LeRoy.
Scheduled stops last week included Petoskey, Indian River, Cheboygan, Mackinaw City, St. Ignace, Mackinac Island, Pellston and Alanson. Foster called it “just a small sampling of the natural resources that Northern Michigan has to offer.”
Pettalia said conditions were ideal for the ice bridge linking St. Ignace to Mackinac Island.
George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was the political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansisng bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.