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MI Small Businesses: "Over the Fiscal Cliff" with the Farm Bill?

PHOTO: Michigan's rural Upper Peninsula depends on many Farm Bill-funded programs. Photo courtesy Center for Rural Affairs.
PHOTO: Michigan's rural Upper Peninsula depends on many Farm Bill-funded programs. Photo courtesy Center for Rural Affairs.
November 14, 2012

LANSING, Mich. - The so-called “fiscal cliff” – and what might be cut to prevent the nation from careening off that cliff – has generated a lot of talk. Farmers and rural Michigan residents are hoping that a new Farm Bill won't get lost in the shuffle, or important parts of it negotiated away.

Chuck Hassebrook, executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs, is especially concerned about rural-development funding that helps people start small businesses in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

"This farm bill needs to fund loans for small businesses, because most of the new jobs come from the smallest businesses."

For example, it was rural-development funding that helped build a cedar-mulch and fence-post production company in Menominee County, where the jobless rate is near 12 percent. It also helped a maple-syrup producer in Mackinac County as well as cherry and apple producers create new products and find new markets, Hassebrook says.

While the election focused on the successes of automakers and manufacturers, Hassebrook says Congress also needs to remember how desperately small towns in Michigan need new jobs.

The Farm Bill stalled in Congress over the issue of food stamps, with the House demanding deeper cuts than the Senate. Hassebrook says that's an important topic, but bringing new opportunities to small towns and rural areas also is important.

"Financing for small-business development is absolutely essential if the average person is to have hopes of having a job and a future in their community."

The Senate cut $23 billion from the Farm Bill. The House wanted to cut $35 billion. The nation's previous Farm Bill expired Sept. 30 and some in Congress are talking about extending it for a year. But Hassebrook thinks pushing it into next year risks even more cuts for farmers and rural Michiganders.

More information is online at cfra.org.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MI