The 2014 Farm Bill, passed by Congress and signed last week by President Obama, strengthens the farm safety net and ensures vital nutrition assistance for hardworking children and families during tough times. It closes loopholes and achieves much-needed reform, saving billions of taxpayer dollars.
Those accomplishments are significant and should be commended, particularly at a time when bipartisan victories in Washington are so rare.
We have already started work on a plan to implement the new Farm Bill. However, many of its provisions are new and complex. As we have done every step of the way in helping to craft this legislation, we will work to keep Congress and our stakeholders informed as we identify and prioritize everything—new regulations, guidance and other activities—that will be required so that we can implement the legislation in an efficient, timely and responsible manner.
Much of the debate leading up to the passage of the farm bill focused on the farm safety net and the food safety net—key provisions of the legislation, to be clear. Yet as we move forward with implementation, I am struck by the myriad ways the new Farm Bill also makes small, yet critical, investments that help foster the potential in our rural communities, long underappreciated and under-realized. It provides resources that give us the opportunity to restructure and revitalize the rural economy in ways that, without a farm bill, were out of reach.
The new Farm Bill invests in the endless possibility to use what is already grown and raised on our farms and ranches in innovative and unexpected ways. It expands the potential to strengthen rural manufacturing, particularly of products made from renewable materials from our farms and forests. Rural America desperately needs those jobs, and every American benefits from our expanded competitiveness in this globally emerging market.