To the Journal editor:
Recently, after nearly three years of tough negotiations, the Agricultural Act of 2014 - also known as the farm bill - became a reality. This is a common-sense law that has Michigan stamped on every page.
U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, Michigan's only member of the House Agriculture Committee, deserves our appreciation for his leadership to get this bipartisan legislation signed into law.
The new farm bill saves billions of dollars by reforming farm programs and ending direct payments that were paid to farmers in the past, regardless of whether they were affected by disaster.
The new farm bill reforms conservation programs to reduce duplication while improving conservation outcomes on Michigan farms. Michigan producers have long led the way in conserving our soil, water and wildlife habitat; this new farm bill makes that work more straightforward and a better deal for taxpayers.
The new law creates a stronger crop insurance program. It expands insurance to make the program more dependable for farmers, while also including insurance options for specialty crop growers who were limited in the past. By reforming crop insurance, Congressman Benishek ensured that producers will have a dependable safety net when disaster strikes but only if they truly need help.
It also provides help for Michigan's tart cherry and apple farm families who lost their crops following a devastating freeze in the spring of 2012.
In addition, new research efforts and programs to support specialty crop production will directly benefit fruit and vegetable production across the state, and create new opportunities for research at Michigan State University.
All of these efforts are especially important in Congressman Benishek's district, where agriculture is expanding. Fruit and vegetable production in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan is critical to the area's economy and is growing! With the approval of the farm bill, these specialty crop growers now have greater certainty as they look to the future.
Production of traditional commodity crops, such as corn and soybeans, is also expanding into northern Michigan - contributing to an industry that adds $96 billion annually to our economy and employs one in four Michiganders.
The new farm bill is important across Michigan - boosting farmers of all types and sizes, enhancing rural businesses, improving conservation and much more. By helping lead the way forward on this legislation, Congressman Benishek stood up for Michigan on the House Agriculture Committee and led the way to a stronger future for our agriculture sector.
Jim Byrum, president
Michigan Agri-Business Association