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Stabenow, Roberts open markup summarizing bill, noting cooperation

Senate Agriculture Commitee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and ranking Pat Roberts, R-Kan., opened the farm bill markup today with statements highly supportive of each other's efforts.

Here are Stabenow's and Roberts's opening statements, which summarize key elements of the bill.

Sen. Stabenow statement


Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
“This committee is unique. Our hearing room doesn’t have a raised dais; instead we sit together around a table, not unlike the tables that America’s farmers sit around after a long day’s work. The work we do around this table is hard. Farm bills are never easy. And a farm bill like this is especially hard when we’re making serious and needed reforms while also cutting the deficit by $23 billion.

“We examined every program in the farm bill, and we reformed, streamlined, and consolidated to get perhaps the most significant reforms in agricultural policy of any farm bill in recent memory.

“We’ve listened to farmers, strengthened crop insurance, and made that the centerpiece of risk management.

“We have a risk management tool that supplements crop insurance that will work for farmers and save money.

“Some of our members wanted an individual system; some wanted a county system – so we are giving farmers flexibility to decide what’s the best for their farm and the risks they face.

“We have the tightest payment limits ever, and I want to thank Sen. (Chuck) Grassley (R-Iowa) for his tireless work on this issue.

“We now have one, simplified limit on income: $750,000.

“We will give farmers the assistance they need when there are losses and it will be based on what they actually plant.

“The era of direct payments is over.

“We are striking a balance among the different regions and commodities.

“We will now have a permanent baseline for livestock disaster assistance, and I want to thank Sen. (Max) Baucus (D-Mont.) for his hard work and advocacy on this issue.

“In short, we put together a bipartisan farm bill that’s focused on farmers and that gives them simplicity, flexibility, and real accountability.

“We are continuing the incredible work that gets done every day because of the conservation title. We are reducing complexity and refocusing programs to better support farmers and landowners who protect our land, water, and wildlife. We are increasing flexibility and transparency to make sure every dollar does the most good.

“We are continuing our nation’s commitment to those most in need. Everywhere I go in Michigan, I hear from people who never in their lives imagined they would need food assistance. We need every dollar going to those who need it, not to waste, fraud, and abuse.

“We are expanding export opportunities, investing in critical agricultural research, and supporting innovative bio-energy and bio-based manufacturing companies who are creating jobs all across the country.

“We recognize the diversity of American agriculture, with a renewed commitment to specialty crops and organic farms as well as support for farmers’ markets and food hubs.

“We streamlined the Rural Development title. We ended 16 authorizations that either have never gotten funding or were duplicative of other efforts, so that we could extend and simplify rural development loans that have proven effective for rural job-creators and local infrastructure projects.

“This farm bill is a jobs bill, and you can see that in every title and on every page. America is the world leader in agricultural exports, and that success is not only critically important for our economy and the 16 million people whose jobs rely on agriculture, but also for our national security. That’s why we are so committed to get this done this year, and this markup is the first step in that process.

“I want to thank all of our wonderful staff for their excellent work. And I want to thank the Department of Agriculture for all of their hard work and help as we’ve gone through this process.

“I also want to thank every member of this committee, who have brought good ideas to the table, and worked hard in good faith to get us to today’s mark-up.

“And I want to especially thank my great partner, Sen. Roberts, for all of the long hours and hard work we have done together to write a farm bill that make sense for our farmers and ranchers, rural communities and American taxpayers and consumers. This has been a long and winding road, and I appreciate our partnership.”

Sen. Roberts statement



Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.
“Chairwoman Stabenow, it is a privilege to be here with you today as we mark up the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012.

“This legislation represents the final product of numerous hearings and months of discussions as we’ve worked to write a new farm bill during the most difficult budget climate in our nation’s history.

“I am proud to say that we have put together a bipartisan bill that strengthens and preserves the safety net for our farmers and ranchers and rural America, while providing $23 billion in deficit reduction under this mark as drafted. Let me repeat that: the Senate Agriculture Committee has drafted a bill that voluntarily provides $23 billion in deficit reduction.

“We’ve eliminated:
  • Four commodity programs and rolled them into one, while saving approximately $15 billion from farm safety-net programs.
  • 23 conservation programs are streamlined into 13 while saving nearly $6.4 billion.
  • $4 billion is saved in the nutrition title.
  • 15 program authorizations are eliminated in the Rural Development title, eliminating over $1 billion of authorized spending over 10 years.
  • Two programs are combined and another two eliminated in specialty crops.
  • Over $1.2 billion in mandatory money is transferred to discretionary authorizations in the energy title.
  • Five programs are eliminated in the forestry title, reducing authorizations by at least $20 million.
  • And, over 60 authorizations are eliminated from the research title, reducing authorizations by at least $770 million over 5 years.

“Madame Chairwoman, that is $24.7 billion in mandatory savings — at least $1.8 billion in reduced discretionary authorizations, and at least 96 programs or authorizations eliminated.

“This is a reform bill. No other committee, in the House or Senate, has voluntarily undertaken programmatic and funding reforms at this level in this budget climate.

“Madame Chairwoman, this is not only a reform bill. It is also one that strengthens and preserves our farm risk management, conservation, research and rural community programs.

“We have strengthened and preserved the crop insurance program — the number one priority of virtually every producer that testified before our Committee. We’ve streamlined our commodity programs while reducing complexity for the producer. We’ve updated the acreage upon which support is based to reflect more recent cropping patterns.

“Madame Chairwoman, that’s a point I want to discuss a little more. In recent days, it has seemed there has been a little confusion here in the Capitol region. It seems that some think we should write farm safety-net programs and allocate their funding by commodity group or organization.

“If all you did was listen to these groups, you’d think we were robbing Peter to pay Paul. I understand that the elimination of direct payments is a big deal to many commodities.

“I originally authored the program. One of the biggest beneficiaries of the program has been wheat — especially in Kansas. But the taxpayers have been clear in this budget climate. Why should Congress defend a program based on planting acreages established over 25 years ago?

“Yes. The elimination of direct payments means the end of many wheat payments in Kansas. But, that does not mean Kansas producers will no longer have a farm safety-net. Quite the contrary, they’ll have a strong risk management system, it’ll just be for different crops.

“Why? Because when base acres were established over 25 years ago, Kansas planted 2.8 million acres of corn, 4.2 million acres of sorghum, 1.6 million acres of soybeans, and 12.1 million acres of wheat.

“In the most recent three-year period, Kansas farmers planted 4.6 million acres of corn, 2.6 million acres of sorghum, 4 million acres of soybeans, and 8.8 million acres of wheat. That is 4.9 million fewer acres of wheat and sorghum and 4.2 million more acres of corn and soybeans. Madame Chairwoman, those acreage shifts have occurred because farmers made those decisions — not Washington. Our producers have planted for the domestic and international markets.

“Money is shifting among commodities because farmers are farming differently — throughout the states on this committee. It is not shifting because we are intentionally picking winners and losers.

“I am very proud of this legislation. We’ve worked hard to put together not the best possible bill but the best bill possible.

“We’ve performed our duty to taxpayers by cutting deficit spending while at the same time strengthening and preserving the programs so important to agriculture and rural America.

“And, we’ve done it in a bipartisan fashion. Madame Chairwoman, thank you for bringing us to this point today and let’s pass this farm bill.”