Farm bill overhauls subsidies, insurance

SPARTA, Mich. (WOOD) — The U.S. Senate passed the farm bill Tuesday. The massive bill, dealing in hundreds of billions of dollars each year and passed only about every five years, sets policy about the food we eat and the people who grow it.

Among those people is Sparta apple grower Jeff VanderWerff.

His family has been farming since the 1940s when they immigrated from the Netherlands. The new farm bill will reverse government policy that has been in effect even before the VanderWerffs stuck a spade in Michigan soil.

“For the first time in the history of farm policy, we have skin in the game as farmers. We are paying into an insurance pool and we may collect, we may not,” he said.

The new farm bill changes more than 80 years of farm subsidies, ending direct payments meant to hedge the risks of crop failure. Those will be replaced by government-backed crop insurance, which the new bill makes cheaper and easier to get. Farmers will buy it like they pay for insurance on their trucks.

VanderWerff says the farm bill will give him stability to plan his business.

“I think the taxpayers should feel good about it and the reason for that being that a stable farm economy helps stabilize the American economy overall,” VanderWerff said.

He thinks taxpayers should also like the farm bill’s spending for research to help growers produce crops less prone to failure, reducing the need for disaster payments and crop insurance claims.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to sign the bill in law Friday at Michigan State University.

VanderWerff is an MSU grad.

“Michigan State University is looking to be a recipient of many of those grants, which is phenomenal. We’re the pioneer land grant university. We developed the extension system. We developed a lot of the tools we use here today, so I think it’s very appropriate that the president is here in Michigan to sign the farm bill,” he said.

You can watch the president’s remarks and the bill signing live on WOOD TV8 and here on

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