U.S. Congressman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, voted today for a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on a farm bill that sets U.S. agricultural and food policy for the next five years. Upton praised the legislation for providing greater certainty to Michigan farm families and for including meaningful reforms to reduce the deficit and protect taxpayer dollars. The Agricultural Act of 2014 (H.R. 2642) passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 251 to 166. The Senate is soon expected to approve the package, and the President is expected to sign it into law.
“This bipartisan agreement gives our Michigan farmers much-needed certainty to plan for the future,” said Upton. “Keeping Michigan’s agricultural industry thriving is absolutely vital to our continuing economic recovery. The Farm Bill helps Michigan farmers compete globally, create jobs, and keep a safe supply of local food on our plates.
“The new specialty crop provisions are particularly important for our region, which boasts some of the greatest crop diversity in the nation. Finally, this agreement saves taxpayers billions of dollars by eliminating unnecessary subsidies and making long-overdue reforms to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse.”
The overall agreement saves taxpayers $23 billion in mandatory spending, in part by repealing or consolidating nearly 100 duplicative federal programs. The agreement also makes the first bipartisan reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – formerly known as food stamps – since the welfare reforms of 1996, while still maintaining critical food assistance to families in need.
H.R. 2642 notably reauthorizes the disaster loan program and includes assistance for Michigan’s specialty crop producers who have been hit particularly hard in recent years by weather that decimated entire harvests of some fruits and vegetables in the area.
Russ Costanza, owner of Russell Costanza Farms in Sodus, Michigan, praised today’s House passage and underscored the importance of new specialty crop provisions to area growers.
“The Farm Bill gives Michigan farmers – for the first time ever – the opportunity to have protection and insurance on specialty crops at an inexpensive cost to taxpayers.”
Congress last passed a comprehensive Farm Bill in 2008, and has since approved a number of short-term extensions. Without further congressional action, federal commodity programs would have reverted back to permanent agricultural laws that went on the books in 1938 and 1949. Such a move would make many farmers ineligible for federal assistance, which would cause consumer prices to skyrocket.