Shaking Things Up: Senate Ag Committee starts Farm Bill discussion by listening to MI producers

Senate Ag Committee leadership shook up their normal routine by holding a hearing at Michigan State University instead of Washington D.C.

The first Senate Farm Bill hearing of the year drew a crowd of Michigan farmers who have been delayed from spring planting by wet weather. Cherry producer Juliette King McAvoy said her biggest request is for the committee to take bold action on climate change.

“Volatile spring weather is just one effect we are seeing on our farm, most recently causing back-to-back crop failures in cherries. The Farm Bill has the opportunity to help mitigate the consequences of the changing climate through not only adaptive and survival tactics, but also proactive tactics to slow and possibly even reverse greenhouse gas emissions through carbon sequestration and regenerative agriculture,” McAvoy explains.

Soybean producer Jake Isley said crop insurance is a critical tool.

“We must continue to have an affordable crop insurance program. With input costs higher in every area of my operation, I cannot afford to have the crop insurance premium subsidy reduced in this next Farm Bill,” Isley states. “Farmers also rely on credit to plant and produce a crop every year. With land values and input prices on the rise, we encourage the committee to consider raising FSA loan limits, which are not currently in line with the current market.”

Stephen Ewald, an organic grower, agreed with the importance of crop insurance and called on leadership to expand it to more types of specialty production. He also called for stronger organic standards.

“I’m also very concerned with imports of fraudulent organic products that do not meet the same high standards as the U.S. organic farmers and undercut the domestic organic growers like me. It is critical that USDA quickly implement the 2018 Farm Bill provisions to ensure organic importers have all the tools and enforcement actions necessary to combat organic fraud at ports and in domestic markets,” Ewald notes.

Ashley Kennedy, a dairy farmer, also called attention to pandemic changes made to Class 1 milk and heavy cheese purchases, which cost dairy farmers $750 million dollars in skim revenue in 2020.

“Nobody could have anticipated COVID-19, but it highlighted the need to improve the Federal Order System. The dairy industry is working hard to find consensus on a range of improvements to take to the USDA for consideration via National Order Hearing. MMPA is actively participating in NMPF’s process. We know that through enact better policies, we must work together to reach a consensus. We look forward to working with this committee as our efforts advance,” according to Kennedy.

The panel also included food business owners who shared their support for USDA’s Rural Development Loan Funding, which supports small businesses and start-ups in rural communities.

The hearing included sixteen total farmers and food business owners who were able to share their suggestions and concerns with Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow and ranking member John Boozman.


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