Feb. 24, 2014 – Congress recently passed a sweeping farm bill that may have significant impact on the lives of everyday Americans. After a lengthy, three-year battle, the U.S. Senate approved the Agriculture Act of 2014 (also known as the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill). The $956.4 billion package passed with a vote of 68 to 32 earlier this month.
The historic measure, which was signed into law by U.S. President Barack Obama, not only establishes five years of farming policies within the nation, it also sets aside money to feed the nation’s poor through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and provides grants to support farmers.
This week, Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, the farm bill’s author and chair of the U.S. Senate’s Agriculture Committee, made a special stop at Fort Valley State University to discuss the new legislation’s potential impact on local farmers. During the event,FVSU’s president, Dr. Ivelaw Lloyd Griffith, also announced the proposed creation of a new Center for Homeland and Global Food Security on the university’s campus.
Dr. Mark Latimore, interim dean for the College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology, explained the reason for Stabenow’s visit to FVSU.
“Senator Stabenow loves land-grant institutions, since she graduated from Michigan State University, America’s first land-grant college,” Latimore said, who explained that President Obama signed the historic bill at the senator’s alma mater on Feb. 7.
“After signing the bill, the senator wanted to visit an 1890 land-grant university, so she chose Fort Valley State,” the interim dean said. “This is an outstanding opportunity to show the senator the type of agricultural research and outreach we are conducting in agriculture at FVSU.”
The senatorial visit was sponsored by Seven Harvest, Inc., a non-profit organization that helps Georgia farmers promote and improve their operations. Warren James, a local farmer and nephew of the Hon. Lynmore James, represented the organization at the event.
“The purpose of today’s luncheon was to have a sit-down, question-and-answer session with the senator to get an update on the new farm bill,” James said.
Inside the Pettigrew Center, Stabenow answered questions from local farmers about the Agriculture Act.
“Every five years, we write a farm bill that relates to food and nutrition policy,”Stabenow stated. The senator, who is chairwoman for the Senate Committee on Agriculture, explained that this year’s farm bill was more difficult to pass due to political opposition. Eventually, a bipartisan push enabled the bill to sail through the U.S. House and Senate.
According to the Michigan senator, the 2014 Agricultural Act includes 12 chapters that will help local farmers. First, funding and grants for locally grown, direct-to-consumer produce through the Farmers Market and Local Food Production program has tripled thanks to the bill’s passage. Additionally, the legislation calls for the creation of a new organization—the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research—that will incorporate private funds for agricultural research and innovation.
The bill also ends direct payment subsidies and other farm subsidy programs, which marks a significant change in American farm policy.
Additionally, there also will be increased money for community food projects (like community gardens), and a new Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive grant program to help farmers market individuals on SNAP to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from farmer’s markets.
The senator told the FVSU crowd that there will be more support to help farmers at all stages of production of crops, not just when they experienced major losses. Individuals new to farming, especially former veterans, will be eligible for new grants from the federal government.
At the event, Griffith also addressed farmers, and announced upcoming ventures designed to support farming initiatives both locally and nationally.
“Agriculture is more than farming,” Griffith explained to the luncheon crowd, “It makes tangible contributions to educational endeavors. I consider the field of agriculture to be the jewel in the crown [for this university], because it will enable Fort Valley State to help our nation through our proposed Center for Homeland and Global Food Security on campus.”
Christina D. Milton, writer/social media specialist
Fort Valley State University
Office of Marketing and Communications