WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate is ready to take a farm bill to
“I’m very concerned that the process begin to move this
week. There’s time enough to do it, but we have got to get started in putting
together the final agreement,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the chairman
of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Stabenow held a press conference July 15 to call for action
from the House leadership to get their divided farm bill sent to the Senate. The
current farm bill extension expires on Sept. 30, and Stabenow made it clear
another extension isn’t in her plans.
“I’m not going to support an extension that leaves out big,
important pieces of farm policy and continues big subsidies that we’ve all
agreed should be eliminated. In the interest of taxpayers and reform, we need to
get this done,” she said.
The House, on July 11, passed a commodity-only farm bill.
After the House Agriculture Committee-passed comprehensive and unified farm bill
failed to pass the House floor, the nutrition titles were separated from the
The portion of the bill without the nutrition titles passed
the House on July 11. Stabenow said she is ready to get to work on whatever the
“I’m willing to take whatever the House gives us and work
with the chairman, (Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla.,) and the ranking member of the
House committee, (Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.,) and I’m confident we can put
things back together that will be able to get bipartisan support,” she
Stabenow emphasized that she has been working with Lucas and
Peterson throughout the process.
“Both he and I, since day one, have worked together to pass
a five-year farm bill. I was proud to work with him on the super committee
process on deficit reduction. I have always felt that if it were the leaders in
the agriculture committees in the House and the Senate, that we could get this
done. I feel that as strongly today,” she said.
“We need to have the leadership of the House supporting
Chairman Lucas and ranking member Peterson because they know how to put together
a unified bill.”
The Senate has twice assembled and passed a unified
comprehensive farm bill to replace the 2008 farm bill. The House Ag Committee
has twice passed and sent to House Speaker John Boehner its version of a farm
Boehner refused to call the first version for a vote before
Congress adjourned prior to the November 2012 elections, and the bill was not
taken up after the lame-duck Congress returned.
The second bill failed on June 20, being voted down on a 234
no to 195 yes vote on the House floor.
“We can’t go to conference unless we have something that
relates to the farm bill from the House,” Stabenow said.
That could be the commodity-only version, but Stabenow noted
that time is running out to get the bills conferenced and get a final bill
created and voted on by the Senate and House. She said there are only six
legislative weeks, about 24 working days as of July 15, before the Sept. 30
expiration of the current extension.
“There’s no reason to wait or delay the process any more,”
The House bill also would repeal the permanent law of 1949,
which always has been a strong incentive for lawmakers to create and implement a
new farm bill every five years. If they do not and if they do not extend the
existing farm bill, farm programs enacted in 1949 take effect.
Various ag groups have voiced concern and opposition to
repealing the 1949 law, thus providing no reason for lawmakers to pass a farm
bill every five years.
“This is a very, very serious issue, and I know, in talking
to the agricultural groups, this ranks very high, if not the top concern that
they have about what was passed Thursday,” Stabenow said. “There are wide, wide
implications on this.”
She said those lobbying for repeal of the 1949 and 1938
permanent laws should explain to their farming and agriculture constituencies
the advantages of a repeal.
“The first thing we need to know is why that’s good for
agriculture, long term. There’s a tremendous amount of questions, a tremendous
amount of opposition to doing this and great concern that this would take away
the pressure that’s been there to make sure we have a comprehensive farm bill
and that we update agriculture and conservation policy every five years,” she
Stabenow said a comprehensive, unified farm bill can be
achieved with bipartisan cooperation in the Senate and in the House.
“We’re not going to negotiate with the extreme elements of
the House who basically don’t believe we should support agriculture, we
shouldn’t support farmers and ranchers, that we shouldn’t have a safety net for
families or for farmers. We can’t negotiate with that position, so we will be
negotiating with a bipartisan coalition of people who understand the importance
of rural America,” she said.
“We’ll negotiate with the folks that understand that this is
the riskiest business of any business anywhere. Nobody else has to worry how
much it’s going to rain this week as to whether or not they’re going to have a
product. There are plenty of folks in the House who understand that, Democrats
and Republicans, and that’s who we’ll work with.”