I am mindful of the admonition All things come to those who wait (or something like that..) And if one can suspend credibility in considering matters of federal legislation, we may find that some of the things for which weve been waiting may indeed be coming to rural Michigan in general, and to Michigan farming in particular. In a May 30th news release from the office of Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow we find the announced support for Michigan State University and its Cooperative Extension service - - to help Michigan farmers and ranchers utilize new tools and resources available through the 2014 Farm Bill.
I can hear some of the skeptics now saying things like, 2014 farm bill!? Thats the farm bill that was supposed to pass in 2008, right?
Well, anyway, its here now, and a lot of the agricultural economic disasters that might have come from that long delay have been avoided, so, were moving on.
What this comes down to, we are told is 150-thousand dollars for MSU, to partner with a coalition of universities led by the University of Illinois, to develop new online decision making tools for commodity, specialty crop, and dairy producers. We here in West Michigan, particularly Southwest Michigan, are very much into specialty crops and dairy production. Im not just sure what is meant by a portion of those funds, which will support that part of the project, but another portion will be used to support state-based MSU Extension agents to help conduct public education and outreach meetings this summer. Extension has always done that, going way back to even before I was toddling about our family farm before the midpoint in the last century. But we all know about, although we dont yet fully understand the scrambling re-do of MSU Extension that has been taking place over the past few years and is still going on. We at least can take some comfort in the fact that Extension is still viable, and growing, and meeting educational needs of farmers and other factors in the improving Michigan economy.
So the new farm bill has some new benefits. Like what? Well, like the reformation of many agriculture programs as in the elimination of the direct payment subsidy program; the streamlining and consolidation of other programs, and cracking down on fraud and misuse. Yes, I recognize thats a lot of generalization, but, somewhat more specifically, the bill invests in initiatives to help strengthen our fruit and vegetable industries, increase all of American exports, and advance the concept of family farmers selling more of their goods locally.
That farm bill was a long time in coming together, perhaps because of the several new factors, including the deficit reduction by 23 billion dollars. Benefits to Michigan just might have come, at least in part, by way of the influence of the Senator from Michigan
Karl Guenther is a retired farm broadcaster at WKZO and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting. (accompanying picture is a screen capture from YouTube)