EAST LANSING, Michigan (CNN) — As he signed the nearly $1 trillion farm bill into law here Friday, President Barack Obama touted a new program designed to bolster rural American businesses – marching forward in his bid to advance his agenda without Congress.
The massive farm bill, approved by Congress Tuesday after years of haggling between lawmakers, sets agriculture policy for the next five years. The legislation also cuts monthly food stamp payments for low-income Americans and ends direct subsidies to farmers.
“Despite its name the farm bill is not just about helping farmers,” Obama said, pointing to the resources the bill directors toward infrastructure, research and conversation efforts. “It’s like a Swiss Army Knife…it multitasks.”
Obama signed the measure at Michigan State University’s indoor horse arena, backed by a massive green tractor and crates of Michigan-grown apples and squash. The school is the nation’s oldest land grant university, situated amid Michigan’s large farming sector. Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan was a top negotiator for the Farm Bill, which was seen as a glimmer of bipartisanship in Congress.
Obama said Friday he hoped the winning streak would continue.
“Instead of wasting time creating crises that impede the economy, we’re going to have a Congress that’s ready to spend some time creating new jobs, new opportunities,” Obama predicted – though later went on to tout the new “Made in Rural America” initiative, which continues his effort to use executive action to get around Congress.
The White House said the plan would help connect businesses outside of cities and suburbs to export opportunities and assistance.
A report from Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, released Friday, indicated strength in America’s agriculture sector – new farm income was predicted to rise to $131 billion in 2013, a 46% jump from 2008.
“The past five years represent one of the strongest periods in our Nation’s farm economy,” the report states. “Not only does American Agriculture put food on the table for American families at affordable prices and provide raw material for a range of vital purposes, it also supports every twelve jobs in the economy. The hard work down on the farm is felt throughout our economy.”
Friday’s push to highlight and bolster rural America came after a series of attempts to help strengthen the middle class and reduce the income gap. Much of the focus has centered on cities and towns – including attempts to revitalize cities that were struck hard by last decade’s recession.
One such city – Detroit – isn’t on Obama’s schedule Friday, though he did have lunch with the Motor City’s mayor along with Don Graves, Obama’s point man on Detroit’s bankruptcy.
Mayor Mike Duggan said afterwards the meeting was a productive way for him to tell Obama what Detroit needs from the federal government as it continues to navigate bankruptcy. He also said the President invited him to the White House next week for an event focused on jobs.