The long winter of farmers’ discontent with the lack of a farm bill and an uncertain outlook for the future finally came to a close today as President Obama signed the Agriculture Act of 2014.
Surrounded by Democratic leaders of Congress – and no Republicans -- the president signed the new law on the campus of Michigan State University, alma mater of Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair who led the effort to pass the farm bill in the Senate three times.
Most members of the farm community would agree the new farm bill is not everything they wanted, but most were relieved to be putting the nearly four years of often bitter debate on everything from the dairy safety net to food stamp cuts behind them.
The president cited Stabenow for her “great leadership” in getting a bipartisan farm bill passed. He also singled out Sen. Thad Cochran, the ranking minority member; Rep. Frank Lucas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee; and Rep. Colin Peterson, ranking member of the House Ag Committee, for their work. He also recognized Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.
Sen. Stabenow gave preliminary remarks, saying the farm bill "works for every American. We will strengthen agriculture and rural America for years to come."
As the ink dried on the new law, farm leaders across the country were delving into the fine points of the legislation, trying to figure out how to advise their members to best approach its crop-insurance-oriented provisions.
Although “very happy to finally have a new law,” Mississippi Farm Bureau President Randy Knight said, “we are a little overwhelmed with the many changes in this bill compared to the old law — the most significant being the repeal of the direct payment program that southern producers have relied upon due to higher production costs of their commodities, such as cotton and rice.”
For southern producers, he says, crop insurance “may have not been as effective as in other parts of the country. This change will also take millions of dollars out of Mississippi’s agricultural economy.”
Knight says producers “will have many options and important decisions to make, many of which have to be made very, very quickly.”