A conversation with Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow about new farm bill

May 31, 2011

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry held its first hearing in Lansing today. It’s the first step in the creation of a new farm bill.

Michigan Radio's Jenn White spoke with Senator Debbie Stabenow about the new farm bill. Stabenow chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.  Here is the interview:

Senator Stabenow talks about the importance of the new farm bill.  And says agriculture provides 1 out of 4 jobs in Michigan.

"There is strength and diversity in Michigan agriculture," Stabenow says, and "it's important to have a safety net and help farmers manage their risk on the farm."

Stabenow says Michigan should be doing more agricultural research. And points to research happening at Michigan State University, from pest control to new technology that can help boost productivity and efficiency.

Other opportunities beyond research, Stabenow says creating an industry around food processing can create manufacturing and jobs.

We grow more crops and diversity of crops than any other state, other than California. But we ship a lot of it out to process and bring it back to eat it. Well, that doesn't make any  sense.

Stabenow says there is also opportunity in agri-tourism in Michigan.

The committee focuses on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. What role do Nutrition and Forestry play into how the farm bill is shaped?

All the food and nutrition programs for the country go through the farm bill. Senator Stabenow tells Michigan Radio's Jenn White that nutrition is the biggest part of the farm bill.

It's very important that we focus on better ways to provide food and nutrition opportunities, whether is through our schools, or for senior citizens or for families who have been hit by this terrible downturn in this economy and need some temporary help.

This is the fourth farm bill that Senator Stabenow has helped write. She says it's very important that Michigan is leading the committee. The first field hearing took place in Lansing earlier today.

My colleagues can hear from Michigan leaders and Michigan families about what is important. And it makes a difference when we are setting up the priorities for the farm bill to have Michigan's voice prominently at the table.