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Stabenow sets four farm bill hearings, says commodity title most challenging

StabenowDebbie
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., told The Hagstrom Report today that she will hold four hearings in February and March in anticipation of bringing the farm bill to the floor before the House acts.

Stabenow said she does not know when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., would bring it to the floor, but said that she and Senate Agriculture ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kans., “want to be able to move it as soon as we can so [House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla.] has the time he needs in the House.”

In an exclusive interview, Stabenow said that the hearing schedule will be:
  • Feb. 15 — An overview focused on energy and rural development
  • Feb. 29 — Conservation
  • Mar. 14 — Healthy food initiatives
  • Mar. 21 — Commodities and risk management

Even though the supercommittee on deficit reduction failed to complete its work, Stabenow said the work she and Lucas did preparing the proposal they submitted to it “was a very important process for us, very clarifying.”

“I really feel like we have developed a lot of good work already,” she said. “We developed relationships that are positive. We know where we still need to work.”

The commodity title “is the area where we have the most work to do,” Stabenow acknowledged. Noting that commodity groups are meeting this week to discuss their differences and try to reach consensus, she said, “I have been urging them to get together.”

“We can’t sustain direct payments with prices high,” she said, but added that it is very important to maintain a safety net “because there is nothing more risky than farming.”

“We don’t want any farmer losing the farm because of a few days of bad weather,” she said. “It is not in our security interests as a country.”

Reacting to Lucas’s statements that it would be hard to develop a single program that will work for all commodities, Stabenow said she has heard “loud and clear,” including at the farm bill hearing she held in Lansing, Mich., that crop insurance is “the No. 1 management tool,” but that crop insurance is not available for all crops.

“That is where the challenge comes in.,” she said. “I am very confident we can come together on a set of tools.”

She said crop insurance doesn’t work for every commodity.

“What we need is continued input and discussion,” Stabenow said. “I am confident we can come together around an approach that will be effective for all of our growers.”