Monday, Aug. 19 — U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a leader in Congress when it comes to agriculture policy, swung by the Hunter Park GardenHouse on Lansing’s East Side this morning to promote stronger local food systems.
Stabenow, Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, discussed how the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act (better known as the Farm Bill) would empower local farmers and ultimately benefit the economy.
The bill passed the Senate in June with bipartisan support, but has hit a roadblock in the House of Representatives. Stabenow said it gives better assistance to farmers, attempts to cut unnecessary spending on assistance programs and streamlines existing programs.
“Our bill forms programs, saves $24 billion, strengthens local food systems and supports all of agriculture. I’m doing everything humanly possible to get this done,” she said, referring to opposition in the House.
While touring the gardens at Hunter Park, Stabenow said it’s critical the bill clears the House by Sept. 30, when the current Farm Bill expires.
“It is absolutely critical that Congress complete its work on the Farm Bill, which would expand support for local food hubs, farmers markets, community gardens and other local food initiatives across our state,” she said.
If passed in the House, the Farm Bill would provide farmers with better risk management support programs in cases of weather disasters. This would impact farmers affected by last year’s drought and spring freeze. The bill consolidates existing risk programs and caps the remaining support at $50,000 per person.
Supporting local farmers is good for the economy as well, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture, which reports that households spending at least $10 a week on locally grown food generates almost $40 million in Michigan’s economy.
The Hunter Park GardenHouse on Kalamazoo Street opened in May 2008. With a staff of volunteers, Hunter Park offers year-round gardening instructions, locally grown food for sale, monthly workshops and other gardening services. It’s operated by the Allen Neighborhood Center, a nonprofit community development agency.
“We have relied on Sen. Stabenow’s support on local food initiatives for over a decade and we are extremely appreciative of her leadership,” said Allen Neighborhood Center Director Joan Nelson.