Legislation introduced this month by US Rep. Elissa Slotkin aims to expand federal resources for American farmers—and help protect their crops from things like weather and pests.
MICHIGAN—After working for much of the summer on recent legislation to expand resources for military veterans and their families, US Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Michigan) said she spent August “really focused” on agriculture—and finding new ways to support Michigan farmers.
The big focus: The 2023 Farm Bill, federal legislation passed every five years that sets national agriculture policies, which expires Sept. 30. And as the only Michigander on the House Agriculture Committee, Slotkin said it’s essential to hear from Michigan farmers about how to make the bill work for them.
“By introducing agriculture bills now, we can set them up to be included in the larger package of legislation,” Slotkin said in a statement this week. “When we invest in agriculture, make crops more resilient, and increase yields, everybody wins—from farmers to consumers.”
The FARMLAND Act
At the start of the month, Slotkin introduced legislation designed to ensure that foreign countries that buy American farmland are more closely scrutinized. In a statement, she said the bill will help ensure that foreign agricultural competitors don’t “gain control of the land that feeds us.”
Specifically, Slotkin’s bill would instruct the federal government to strengthen its review processes for farmland bought by other countries when the price exceeds $5 million, or when the total land acquired exceeds 320 acres over the last three years. It will also help ensure farmland does not “come under the control of the Chinese Communist Party or other bad actors,” Slotkin said.
US Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) is leading a companion bill in the US Senate.
The Specialty Crop Security Act
Slotkin also pitched a bill that would increase federal assistance to farmers who grow specialty crops—including fruits and vegetables that are “critical” to Michigan’s economy, she said.
Specifically, the bill would expand the US Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program by $15 million to $100 million a year. The program is designed to help farmers promote certain specialty crops and help them compete across the industry.
Since it was first authorized in 2004, the program has funded nearly $1 billion worth of projects. Last year, more than $2 million was awarded across 22 projects in Michigan—including a grant to the Michigan Bean Commission to help spread awareness of the health benefits of beans.
“Expanding specialty crop markets and ensuring the long-term success of producers will pay serious dividends, which is why this bill has been endorsed by 11 different Michigan agriculture organizations from across the state and industry,” Slotkin said in a statement.
Specialty Crop Research Act
Most recently, Slotkin introduced additional legislation that aims to support federal research into how to protect crops from things like weather and pests—and help farmers rake in more profits.
Specifically, the bill would increase federal research funding by about $75 million annually, allowing research entities like Michigan State University to find new ways to make specialty crops more resilient to environmental threats and increase the overall yield of their harvest.
Cover Crop Incentives
Through the recently introduced Conservation Opportunity and Voluntary Environment Resilience Program (COVER) Act, Slotkin is also pushing for a $5/acre crop insurance discount for Michigan farmers who plant cover crops as a way to incentivize healthy soil practices.
Cover crops—like grasses and legumes—refer to any crop grown exclusively to cover the soil, which can, in turn, help to control erosion, suppress weeds, increase moisture and nutrient content of the soil, attract pollinators, improve yields, and provide a habitat for beneficial insects.
“When it comes to helping out our farmers, cover crops can do it all: increase yield, protect soil, and save money. It’s just common sense that we encourage their use,” Slotkin said.
More Work Ahead
Slotkin also met with farmers and other agricultural leaders at a roundtable event in Grand Rapids alongside the director of the state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
“It was invaluable to hear directly from the farmers and leaders who put food on our tables and I plan to participate in more conversations like this around the state,” Slotkin said in a statement.
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