WASHINGTON, D.C. - Incoming Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) touched on everything from farm bill programs to the regulatory system in a speech Tuesday, billed as her first in her new leadership role.

In the speech, delivered before the Michigan Agri-Business Association's winter conference, she acknowledged that people outside of Michigan don't see the state as particularly agricultural, associating it more with the automobile sector.

She described her chairmanship as an opportunity "to tell the rest of the country about the great work all of you are doing" and said her position gives her "a unique viewpoint of the big picture of American agriculture."

The remarks covered many of the issues that will be before the Committee when its work starts in earnest in the 112th Congress and gave important clues as to her positions on issues of concern to wheat growers and others.

Passages on key issues included:

Regulatory system – "With almost 7 billion mouths to feed around the globe, we need American leadership in innovation, biotechnology and increased efficiency to make it possible to feed the world. To foster that innovation, we need a regulatory system that is science-based and efficient." Trade - "We also need to continue opening markets around the world. As a member of the President's Export Council, I know the importance of not only creating but also enforcing trade agreements with other countries."

Safety Net - "…[A]s we look forward to writing the next farm bill, I am fully committed to a strong safety net. There is no question that we have serious budget pressures, and so we will need to find creative solutions to help our growers manage risk. The safety net might look a little different than it does now, but we can't have family businesses going under because of a few days of bad weather."

Environmental regulation - "One issue that I hear about over and over from farmers and agribusinesses is that we need to resolve some of the issues currently with the EPA related to FIFRA and the Clean Water Act. I'm proud to also represent our manufacturers and our American auto industry, which means that I have some experience working with the EPA, and finding bipartisan solutions to those issues that can protect our environment while also protecting growers and producers and our way of life."

Later in her remarks, Stabenow said she is looking forward to working with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), with whom she worked when she served on the House Committee, and presumptive Ranking Member of the Senate Committee, Pat Roberts (R-Kan.).

Stabenow also said she is planning a series of field hearings and a nationwide e-newsletter to keep constituents updated on Agriculture Committee activities.

Though less familiar to wheat growers than Members of Congress from traditional wheat states, Stabenow has a deep agriculture background and is from a state with an agriculture sector that accounts for more than one in every four jobs.

Stabenow has served on agriculture committees in the Michigan House, U.S. House and now the U.S. Senate and has been a particularly ardent supporter of agricultural research and making climate change proposals workable for agriculture producers.

The full speech as prepared for delivery is available online at http://stabenow.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=125.

SOURCE: National Association of Wheat Growers