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Michigan's Newest Farmers Speak Out on 2012 Farm Bill

March 21, 2012

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Farmers from across the state are weighing in on what they hope will be included in the 2012 Farm Bill.

Renewed every five years, the bill is one of the largest pieces of federal legislation, affecting everything from food safety to food stamps.

Alex Cacciari, owner of Seeley Farms, has been farming full-time in the Ann Arbor area for more than a year, and says it's critical that the 2012 Farm Bill include programs to help other new farmers start their businesses. She says a key piece of the legislation is training to help people navigate the challenges of getting started.

"Having that extra 'oomph' from the federal government for accessing money and credit to get your business going is really key in this environment, where it can be so difficult with traditional lending institutions."

Cacciari says the initial costs of equipment and land are major obstacles, and hopes that Congress will support the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act as part of the 2012 Farm Bill.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, has stressed the roles the Farm Bill and the agriculture industry as a whole play in job creation. Cacciari says the funding assistance she received to start her farm already has created one part-time and three full-time jobs.

"It's not a handout. It's an investment, and the direct return on that investment is jobs creation."

It's estimated that 25 percent of jobs in Michigan are agriculture-related.

Mona Shand/Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MI