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Stabenow: Move to conference now

Click here to listen to Brandon’s Agribusiness Report on Senator Stabenow’s view of the House farm bill.

It was “not a real farm bill,” and “an insult to rural America.”

That’s how Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow referred to the final House farm bill, stripped of its nutrition title, just minute after it passed last week. In a conference call this week, Stabenow clarified that the comments were directed toward House leadership, who had made it necessary to split the farm bill to get it into conference.

But Stabenow also explained that part of her criticism stemmed from the House farm bill’s repeal of the 1938/1949 permanent law and replacement of it with Title 1 of the split farm bill, a move she claims creates more questions than answers.

First thing we need to know is why that’s good for agriculture long term, to take the pressure off to create a farm bill every five years, and then what’s the impact on every other part of agriculture.
When we’re looking at permanent law as it relates to the commodity title, there’s a tremendous amount of public impact by other parts of the farm bill, and there’s no answer to that.
There’s a tremendous amount of questions, tremendous amount of opposition to doing this – great concern, again, that this would stop – 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.

Under normal circumstances a measure originating in and moving out of the House of Representatives will be sent to the Senate for approval. IF the Senate makes any changes, the appointment of a conference committee usually follows. Stabenow says that, with the clock ticking, the House is waiting to complete a Republican nutrition title before it submits both halves of the farm bill to the Senate. Less than 24 legislative days remain before the current one-year extension of 2008 farm policy expires, and Stabenow says going directly to conference now is a better strategy.

I’m willing to take whatever the House gives us, and then work with the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee, and I’m confident that we can put things back together that will be able to get bipartisan support, and that’s what it’s going to take – not just bipartisan support in the Senate – it’s going to take bipartisan support in the House, if there’s going to be a farm bill.