As many of our readers know, agriculture is Michigan’s second-largest industry, after manufacturing. In fact, President Barack Obama recently traveled to Michigan State University to sign the farm bill that finally made it through Congress after years of debate and compromises. He was joined by an MSU alumnus, Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee.
President Obama also used the bill signing at MSU, a top school for agriculture research, to launch his new initiative called “Made in Rural America.” The goal of the initiative is for farmers and other rural business owners to increase exports with the help of the federal government. The government will help match these businesses throughout the country with federal resources to help improve their export opportunities.
Much debate and media attention surrounding the farm bill revolved around the food stamp program, which was ultimately cut by one percent. Still, nearly 80 percent of the almost $100 billion allocated for the bill annually will be used to fund the food stamp program, which helps about 14 percent of the people in this country. However, a good deal of money in the bill has been earmarked for those who farm for a living. About 15 percent will be used for crop insurance and other farm subsidies that help protect farmers against weather and other factors over which they have no control.
That still leaves “hundreds of millions of dollars” in the bill, which will span five years, to help fund agricultural research at universities like MSU. Some $200 million is being used to start the Foundation for Food Agriculture Research, a non-profit organization designed to bring together academics, business owners and private groups to “focus on safe, efficient and sustainable food production, innovations to boost the economy and fight global hunger.” A number of university researchers who found themselves in a state of limbo over funding for their projects while Congress battled over the farm bill no doubt are breathing a sigh of relief.
Many farmers and other rural business owners in Michigan are no doubt enthusiastic about the opportunities provided by the “Made in Rural America” initiative and the money earmarked for their businesses in the farm bill. Michigan entrepreneurs engaged in business planning can benefit not only from federal agricultural exerts, but from experienced legal professionals who can help them grow their companies while minimizing regulatory hurdles and potential litigation issues.
Source: Crain’s Detroit Business, “Obama to sign farm bill at MSU today, announce ‘Made in Rural America’ plan” No author given, Feb. 07, 2014