WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry, today issued the following opening statement during the Committee’s meeting to consider and markup the bipartisan Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 – also known as the 2018 Senate Farm Bill.
Stabenow’s statement, as prepared for delivery, follows:
Mr. Chairman, it is a pleasure to work with you as partners in this Committee.
From the start of this process, you and I made a commitment to deliver a bipartisan farm bill that would work for our farmers, families, and rural communities. I’m pleased we have stayed true to our word and reached an agreement that will support our diverse agricultural economy – and the 16 million jobs it supports.
This bill represents important improvements for Michigan, for Kansas, for all regions of the country – and for every part of the Farm Bill coalition.
Over the past year and a half, we’ve put our political differences aside and focused on listening to people who have a stake in the Farm Bill. From farmers and rural leaders, to conservationists and food advocates: we heard loud and clear that they need the certainty of a five-year Farm Bill.
America’s farmers and ranchers especially need a reliable safety net to protect them from the risks they face every day. When a year’s worth of work can be erased by a single day of bad weather – or a sudden turn in the market – farmers rely on strong risk management tools.
Making improvements for our dairy farmers was one of my top priorities. In addition to the $1.1 billion we secured in the Bipartisan Budget Act, we replaced the Margin Protection Program with “Dairy Risk Coverage,” and invested an additional $100 million to improve affordability and flexibility.
While it’s true we faced a tight budget, we were still able to work together to protect some of the most important parts of the Farm Bill and continue to expand the coalition engaged in our food and farm system.
New support for veterans, in addition to permanent investments for beginning farmers and socially-disadvantaged producers helps build the bench for the next generation of agriculture for years to come. Permanent, mandatory funding for both international trade, and investments in farmers markets and local food systems, help producers sell their products both at home and abroad.
Incentives for healthy food mean more nutritious food for families and higher sales for local farmers. Investments in cutting-edge agricultural research help our producers be more productive and more profitable.
And we made these critical investments without cutting key programs like conservation. This bill has no overall cuts to the conservation title, which helps our farmers be more productive, and protects our land and water for outdoor recreation.
By focusing on innovative public-private partnerships, we will actually grow funding by leveraging an additional $1 billion dollars in private investments to support locally-led conservation. New tools to drive conservation and restoration on our national forests are also included.
Just as the farm bill supports farmers and landowners, it also supports families and communities. We worked to find common ground to improve the integrity of nutrition assistance and help families to find good paying, stable jobs while preserving critical food access for millions of families in need.
Additionally, we made historic investments to support tribal communities. We also protected and expanded initiatives that create rural jobs and ensure families can enjoy a high quality of life no matter where they live.
One of the things sorely needed in rural communities is reliable, high-speed internet. In my home state alone, there are nearly 1 million people in rural Michigan who lack access. Our bill includes new opportunities that will connect the rural households, schools, and businesses that need it most.
We strengthened job opportunities by continuing strong investments in biobased manufacturing, clean energy installation, and rural small businesses. And we found ways to improve the health of rural families. New prioritized support for water infrastructure will address harmful containments in drinking water. Additionally, expanded resources will provide addiction treatment to combat the opioid epidemic that has devastated far too many small towns across the country.
On every title and on every page, you can see that this is truly a Farm Bill that meets critical priorities across our country.
I want to thank the members of this committee – each one of you have brought valuable ideas to the table, and worked hard to get us here today.
And again I want to thank my great partner, Senator Roberts, for all of the long hours and hard work we have done together to write a Farm Bill that make sense for our farmers and ranchers, rural communities and families.
Now let’s pass a Farm Bill.