A 3 year long struggle to accomplish the Farm Bill came to an end today when President Obama signed into law the legislation Friday at Michigan State University.
The bill passed the House on January 29, 2014 with a vote of 251 to 166 It passed the Senate on February 4, 2014 with a vote of 68-32. The previous legislation had expired on December 31, 2013 (after several extensions) and there was a marked uncertainty in the agriculture community about whether or not new legislation would actually be passed.
During his remarks, President Obama said:
The Farm Bill is not just for farmers; it’s like a Swiss army knife, and it gives more American’s a shot at opportunity. We are now in a better position in the 21st century than any other country on earth.
Among the Senators with the President was Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow, who graduated from Michigan State.
In addition to signing the Farm Bill, President Obama launched a new initiative called “Made in Rural” America. According to the AP:
He’s coupling the signing of the nearly $1 billion-a-year legislation with the announcement of the new administration program to connect rural businesses with federal resources that can help sell their products and services abroad. The program’s creation comes as U.S. farmers are sending more products overseas – a record $140.9 billion in the last fiscal year – but U.S. officials say additional opportunities exist overseas for farmers and other rural business owners.
According to a draft of his plan obtained by The Associated Press, Obama plans to direct federal agencies to take several steps in the next nine months toward that goal. They include hosting five regional forums for rural businesses, training Agriculture Department staff in all 50 states to advise on export opportunities, and putting on a national conference to highlight successful projects.
Not everyone was happy with the passage of the Farm Bill, including Indiana Congressman Stutzman, who believes the food stamp program and the farm supports should be separate.
The final version of the legislation signed into law did not contain the King Amendment, which would have protected farmers from strict regulations imposed in other states. It also ended direct payments, which was a rather controversial program.
House Ag Chair Lucas said he has one regret: “My one regret is that we did not make this Permanent Law.”
You can see a full video of the event signing here.