Stabenow presses House on farm bill
Citing the worst drought in 50 years, Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) held a news conference Wednesday calling on the House of Representatives to bring the 2012 farm bill to the floor for a vote.
Stabenow notes the Senate has passed a bipartisan version of the bill, as has the House Ag Committee. “We just need it to be brought up on the House floor,” she says, adding there is no reason the House cannot schedule the bill for a vote right away. With a with a deadline looming on September 30th, there needs to be time for House and Senate leaders to negotiate their bills in conference before sending a final bill to the President. Adding to the urgency, the House will be in recess from August 4 through September 9, and the Senate from August 6 through September 7.
Both the Senate and House bills include strong livestock Disaster provisions, Stabenow says, along with provisions to strengthen crop insurance and give uninsured growers a chance to purchase it. She stresses the need to have these safety nets in place to allow farmers the opportunity to plan and work with their lenders, rather than counting on “ad-hoc disaster assistance.”
Pointing out that 16 million American jobs are connected to agriculture, which has been a bright spot in the economy, Stabenow says passage of the 2012 farm bill will help keep agriculture strong.
Several reporters asked about the possibility of extending the current bill, as the probability of the House passing a bill before the August recess seems slim. While acknowledging the possibility of an extension, Stabenow consistently stated that Congress can and should pass a full 2012 farm bill before the deadline. The Ag leadership in the House, as well as in the Senate, are anxious to bring the bill to a vote, she says, and farmers need the economic certainty the bill will provide, rather than an extended bill accompanied by short-term disaster assistance. Right now, she says, she’s sticking with “plan A,” rather than preparing for an extension, which she says Congress could deal with in September if needed.
The Senate, she says, decided to work in a bipartisan fashion and passed a strong farm bill with $23 billion in deficit reduction. The House has an opportunity to do the same thing. Farmers are not asking for stopgap measures, she adds. They want Congress to do its job and do everything they can to support farmers and ranchers.
The Senate and House versions are similar in several areas including conservation, specialty crop and others she says. There are differences in other areas such as the commodity title and nutrition, but overall, the two bills have more similarities than differences. If the House could pass their version, Congress could use the time left in August to negotiate a final bill. “There is no reason we can’t get it done,” she says.
Click here for the AgriTalk audio.