Michigan agriculture's already substantial clout in the nation's capital got a shot in the arm this week with the announcement of an Upper Peninsula congressman's appointment to a pair of key ag-related subcommittees. Among seven new appointees to the U.S. House of Representatives' Agriculture Committee announced Dec. 5, Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Crystal Falls) will serve on two of that body's key subcommittees: General Farm Commodities and Risk Management; and Conservation, Energy and Forestry.
General Farm Commodities and Risk Management oversees programs and markets related to cotton and cottonseed, wheat, corn and other feed grains, soybeans, oilseeds, rice, dry beans, peas, lentils; the Commodity Credit Corporation; risk management (including crop insurance); commodity exchanges and specialty crops.
Conservation, Energy and Forestry has jurisdiction over soil, water and resource conservation; small watershed programs; energy and bio-based energy production; rural electrification; forestry and forest reserves other than those created from the public domain.
"Both of these issue areas are vitally important to northern Michigan's citizens, farmers and agribusiness owners," says Benishek, a physician and lifelong resident of northern Michigan. "I am looking forward to serving on these subcommittees during the 113th Congress."
Benishek represents Michigan's 1st District, which includes the entire Upper Peninsula and more than 16 counties in the northern Lower Peninsula.
"This is an impressive accomplishment for Rep. Benishek, especially in just his second term," says Ryan Findlay, Michigan Farm Bureau's (MFB) national legislative counsel. "To have someone from Michigan on both of these subcommittees will serve our farmers well."
Benishek has already demonstrated significant interest in and commitment to Michigan's diverse agriculture industry. With his reapportioned northern district now including the heart of the state's cherry country in the northwestern Lower Peninsula, Benishek's keen attention to risk management was piqued by the fruit freeze disaster that decimated most of the state's tree fruit crops last year.
"Crop insurance issues, energy and conservation programs—and the disaster assistance versus direct payment debate—all fall under the purview of these two subcommittees," Findlay says. "It's reassuring to know Michigan's voice will be part of all those discussions."
Benishek has invested considerable effort in familiarizing himself with northern Michigan agriculture and its issues, touring farms and orchards across his vast district, speaking with farmers and learning about their challenges and opportunities.
During his first term in office, Benishek was an effective advocate for agriculture, leading delegation letters urging a disaster declaration for farmers impacted by last spring's disastrous freezes. He joined delegation letters urging the labor department to reconsider regulatory changes that would have practically prohibited young people from working on farms, and he supported legislation benefiting District 1 farmers through foreign trade agreements, tax legislation and measures limiting burdensome regulations.