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President signs farm bill

DANIEL LOOKER 02/07/2014 @ 4:55pm Business Editor

President Barack Obama traveled to East Lansing, Michigan Friday to sign the Agriculture Act of 2014, the Farm Bill, at Michigan State University's equine performance center. He was accompanied by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, other Democratic senators and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Obama also visited a biotechnology plant.

In his remarks before signing, Obama described some features of the Farm Bill, including its support for hospitals, schools, and rural communities as well as cutting edge biofuels. He also said the bill closes loopholes that allow people to receive payments year after year, even if they didn't farm.

Although the farm bill passed both the House and Senate with strong bipartisan majorities, no Republican members of Congress attended. According to White House pool reporter Dave Boyer of The Washington Times, Obama's Press Secretary, Jay Carney, said that some 50 lawmakers, including many Republicans, were invited.

"Look, this was a bipartisan effort and everyone involved in it deserves credit," Carney said. "The president is happy to share credit for that."

Yet, the final success of the farm bill trumped politics, with farm and conservation groups welcoming the signing.

"This new five-year farm bill means certainty and stability for farmers. It means food on the table for hungry families. And it means taxpayers will save money," said National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre. "We thank President Obama for signing this important legislation and we stand ready to work with the Administration and communicate the value of this new law for our growers and those they help feed and fuel. Because of its very topic – food and the farms that provide it – this is one of the most important pieces of legislation Congress has passed in some time."

NCGA pointed out that the bill:the bill:

- Eliminates controversial direct payments while maintaining decoupled farm support programs that will minimize the possibility of planting and production distortions that could trigger new World Trade Organization challenges.

- Allows producers to either maintain existing crop acreage base or to reallocate their current base to reflect average acres planted to covered commodities in 2009-2012, a reform that will make programs more relevant and more defensible while not tying them to current-year plantings.

- Consolidates 23 previous conservation programs into 13, and focuses conservation efforts on working lands. It also ties conservation compliance for wetlands and highly erodible land to premium support for crop insurance.

- Maintains authorizations for important agricultural research programs, including AFRI, as well as including a new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research that will provide a structure and mandatory funding for new public/private partnerships and investments that will further USDA’s research mission.

- Maintains authorizations and funding levels for export promotion, including the Foreign Market Development (FMD) Program and the Market Access Program (MAP).

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