Stabenow Mapping Out Farm Bill


By Jerry Hagstrom, DTN Political Correspondent

The Senate will proceed on its own schedule on the next farm bill and should finish it as quickly as possible, but Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow will not promise to finish the bill in 2012.

In her first extensive interview since assuming the chairmanship of the committee, Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan, told DTN, “We’re going to start right now and move through the process, and we’ll make decisions as we go along. In terms of an exact timetable, I think it’s in the interest of agriculture, given the backdrop that we’re in right now around budgets and deficits, to move in a thoughtful, methodical way and get this in place as soon as we can.”

She added, “We will move this as responsibly and quickly as we can and work with our counterparts in the House. I think [House Agriculture Committee] Chairman [Frank] Lucas [R-Okla.] has a lot on his plate as well. As long as we are doing the right thing for agriculture, then that’s what counts.”

Stabenow announced Friday that the first farm bill field hearing will be held April 9 at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

Lucas has said the bill should be finished in 2012, but has also said he intends to use 2011 to hold oversight hearings on federal agencies and to educate the many freshmen member of his committee about agriculture.

In the interview, Stabenow discussed her relationship with agriculture since she was a child and said the farm bill should:

– Reexamine the direct payments program to establish the committee’s credibility in a tight budget period.

– Expand crop insurance to cover more crops.

– Continue the sugar program.

– Use the National Milk Producers Federation’s “Foundation for the Future” proposal as the starting point for changing the dairy program.

– Continue the specialty crops program from the 2008 farm bill.

Stabenow also said it is necessary to educate members of Congress that agriculture has already contributed $4 billion to deficit reduction over 10 years through the renegotiation of the crop insurance standard reinsurance agreement. She also noted that the continuing resolution that is funding the federal government through April 8 cut rural development, research and conservation programs.

“I have talked to our leader [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.] about that. I’ve talked to the White House about that,” Stabenow said. “I’ve showed them the numbers and said we are willing to do our part in agriculture, but others should be contributing as well. I think it’s time for others to be stepping up.”

She added that a lot of people don’t understand that in the commodity title, as crop prices go up, the projected baseline for future spending goes down as well.

“So we start down. Plus, we have $10 billion that was in the last farm bill of authorized spending that is not in the baseline. I sit on the Finance Committee. And we funded SURE [the farm disaster relief program]. Our disaster assistance, all of our energy programs, some on specialty crops was funded through the $10 billion, [and] we will have to find a way to fund if we want to continue it.”

Stabenow also reaffirmed her commitment to ethanol, but said support for renewable fuels may need to be changed. She also said the Commodity Future Trading Commission should take its time to develop policies that assure accountability, transparency and the ability of end users to manage risk.

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at


© Copyright 2011 DTN/The Progressive Farmer, A Telvent Brand. All rights reserved.

Posted with DTN Permission by Haylie Shipp



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