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Feb. 7, 2014

Michigan State: the perfect setting to sign the Farm Bill

When it was time to select a host location to sign the Farm Bill into law, the White House decided that the best place was Michigan State University.

When President Barack Obama took the stage, he greeted the crowd with a hearty, “Go Green!” He also gave quick shout-outs to MSU coaches Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo. He saved lengthier praise, however, for the agricultural research being conducted at MSU and members of Congress who supported the Farm Bill.

MSU is helping farmers grow more crops that are resistant to disease. The university also is spearheading biofuels advances through initiatives like MBI, which creates jobs while reducing dependence on foreign oil. MSU also leads conservation efforts and remains at the forefront of sustainability. The Farm Bill supports all of these efforts and more, Obama said.

“The Farm Bill is not just for farmers; it’s like a Swiss army knife, and it gives more Americans a shot at opportunity,” Obama said. “We are now in a better position in the 21st century than any other country on earth.” We’ve got to continue to build an economy that benefits everyone, not just a select few, he added.

MSU is well positioned to support that effort with its long roots in agriculture. Not only has the university provided support and leadership to Michigan’s growers and livestock producers for almost 160 years, but it has shared and expanded its wealth of knowledge and sphere of influence nationally and internationally, said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon.

“The Farm Bill not only provides strong support for new research enterprises, but it also strengthens and grows Michigan’s agriculture economy and helps sustain America’s global competitiveness,” she said. “We’re proud of our pioneer land-grant institution heritage; and we are honored and pleased that President Obama signed the Farm Bill on our campus. I would like to recognize the leadership of Sen. Debbie Stabenow and the Michigan congressional delegation for their hard work in passing this legislation.”

MSU also is Stabenow’s alma mater, which has demonstrated its dedication to agricultural research as well as many other scientific fields that can bolster Michigan’s economy. Obama’s visit was right next door to MSU’s Facility for Rare Isotope Beams. Once complete, the $730 million project is proposed to generate more than $1 billion in economic activity for Michigan.

A cadre of U.S. Senators attended the signing to show their support. Front and center, of course, was Stabenow, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and championed the legislation.

“I’m so pleased that President Obama chose to sign this landmark legislation here in Michigan,” Stabenow said. “This Farm Bill is about our future, growing our agriculture economy, protecting food assistance for families in need of support, preserving our land and water, and reducing the deficit. With Michigan on every page, I can’t think of a better place for this Farm Bill to become law than right here at my alma mater, Michigan State University.”

Many Michigan farmers and MSU programs will benefit from passage of the bill. The bill includes funding for specialty crops research, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, organic agriculture research and extension initiatives, biomass research and more.

“These programs are right in MSU’s wheelhouse and will enhance our well-established investment in innovation, beginning in our laboratories and research centers and delivered to the state’s agribusiness community through MSU AgBioResearch and MSU Extension,” said Doug Buhler, director of MSU AgBioResearch.

Thomas Coon, director of MSU Extension, was pleased that the Farm Bill continued to emphasize conservation, underscoring MSU’s work with farmers and ranchers, who manage more land and water than any other resource managers in the country.

“This is why we have researchers and Extension professionals addressing issues that include land use policy and management, air quality, soil conservation, waste management and use of waste products, landscape ecology, ecosystem management and water research,” he said. “The Farm Bill’s commitments to these areas are strong. To quote one of our former directors, this is a great week to be in Extension.”

Obama signed the Farm Bill into law accented by raucous applause by the standing-room-only crowd.

By: Layne Cameron