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MLive: House-backed farm bill would remove regulatory roadblocks, GOP reps say

January 8, 2014
Opinion Editorial

After months of wrangling, Congress is moving toward a resolution on the contentious farm bill that sets a broad range of agriculture policies.

A House and Senate conference report on the bill is forthcoming. Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who chairs the Senate agriculture committee, has expressed confidencea deal will be reached.

In a guest column to MLive, U.S. Reps Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, and Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, argue for the House-crafted farm bill that includes a Republicans say will cut down regulatory burdens for farmers.

By U.S. Reps. Bill Huizenga, Dan Benishek and Tim Walberg

Michigan's economy is powered by its "Big Three" industries - manufacturing, tourism, and agriculture. Although sometimes overshadowed by the rebirth of manufacturing and the booming success of Pure Michigan ads, the food and agriculture industry is vital to Michigan's comeback.

Agriculture in Michigan contributes over $91 billion annually to the state's economy while employing nearly 1 million workers. With a Farm Bill conference report fast approaching, Congress has an opportunity to implement commonsense policies that will help Michigan agriculture continue to expand and grow well into the future.

The version of the Farm Bill that passed the House of Representatives includes the most significant reductions to farm policy spending in history. It introduces a sensible, more fiscally-responsible approach, saving American tax-payers nearly $14 billion. These reforms afford farmers and ranchers an insurance plan that offers protection only when they suffer significant losses.

Michigan is home to over 300 specialty crops including apples, cherries, blueberries, carrots, and onions. The Farm Bill includes programs with vast bipartisan support that expands insurance for these specialty crops and continues the Specialty Crop Research Initiative that aims to enhance sustainable production of fruits and vegetables that so many of us purchase at Michigan's numerous farmer's markets.

While agriculture has prospered in Michigan, it remains under constant threat from overregulation and excessive red tape. The Farm Bill presents an opportunity to fix some of the serious problems Michigan farmers face due to Washington's heavy-handed decision making that is based on untested measures instead of sound science.

Currently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture enforces more than 10,000 pages of regulations. Farmers are forced to fight against proposals crafted by nameless bureaucrats in Washington and driven by junk science that would dictate everything from "farm dust" to "spilt milk." 

A provision in the House Farm Bill called the Sound Science Act would require every federal agency to develop guidelines to maximize the quality of scientific information used by federal agencies. This commonsense legislation has support from both sides of the aisle. Even President Obama has said he supports restoring scientific integrity to government decision making. Farmers in Michigan and across the United States deserve to earn a living that isn't under constant attack from their own government.

Positive reforms to agriculture policy are necessary to make government more efficient as well as more effective. The House-passed bill took several important steps in that direction. While no bill is perfect, ensuring The Sound Science provision is included in the Farm Bill conference report would help the economy by removing unnecessary and unfounded regulatory roadblocks.

Americans everywhere should expect their government to use scientific data that is peer-reviewed and follows a well established scientific process. This conference report affords Congress the opportunity to make sure that happens.

To read the original article at Mlive, please click here.