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Stabenow, Conaway, Grassley show ideological range

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., praised House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., for moving forward with the farm bill while expressing concern over the size of the food stamp cut, while House Agriculture General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, spraised the food stamp cut, but said he would have preferred the bill leave out the basic Senate commodity program.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow
“I commend Chairman Lucas and ranking member Peterson for moving forward on a draft farm bill,” Stabenow said.

“I will review their draft closely to compare it to the significant reforms we accomplished in the bill that recently passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan basis,” Stabenow said. “I am very concerned about some of the differences between the two bills — for example, rather than focusing on fraud and misuse like the Senate bill, the House bill takes far greater cuts in food assistance by changing eligibility rules so that some people truly in need will not receive the help their family needs.

“It is vital that our House colleagues be allowed to complete their work, as failing to pass a bill by the September deadline would jeopardize 16 million jobs and undercut the strong growth in agriculture,” Stabenow said. “I expect them to have a successful markup and for House leadership to give them time on the House floor as soon as possible so that we can finish the 2012 farm bill in a timely manner.”

Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas
Rep. Michael Conaway
Conaway said the $16 billion in cuts to food stamps in the House bill “makes a down payment in getting a grip on Washington’s runaway spending.”

“While the Senate produced a lopsided bill that would fail to see our nation’s farmers through tough times, the House bill gets it about right,” Conaway added. “While I personally would not have included the Senate’s revenue program as an option in the House bill because I believe it is a false choice for any farmer that wants a true safety net, I respect my colleagues who tell me that at least some of their farmers want that choice.”
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa
Sen. Charles Grassley
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said he was pleased the House Agriculture Committee is moving toward a markup, but that he was disappointed the bill does not maintain the payment limitations that he championed in the Senate bill.

“The House Agriculture Committee’s draft doesn’t even stick with the status quo for payment limits. It would actually increase the payment limits from the current law," Grassley said.

“Currently, direct payments have a limit of $40,000 per farmer, and the counter-cyclical program has a limit of $65,000. The House draft bill would have a farmer choose between a counter-cyclical program and a revenue program and would increase the farmer’s cap to $125,000 no matter what program is chosen,” he said.

“Furthermore, this draft bill would not place any cap on the amount of benefits any one farmer could receive from the marketing loan program, leaving it completely uncapped. This is simply an indefensible approach for farm programs and will lead to a continuation of the largest 10 percent of farms receiving 70 percent of the farm program payments.”

Grassley added, “The other glaring omission in the House’s draft bill is it doesn’t address any of the loopholes currently being used by non-farmers to exploit the farm program. With tight budgets and a growing federal deficit, taxpayers aren’t going to stand by and accept non-farmers profiting from a program designed to be a safety-net for farmers."