The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

Navigation

Stabenow to House: Pass farm bill in September, conference in October, final passage in November

By JERRY HAGSTROM

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said today that there is still time for Congress to pass a new farm bill this session.

The 2008 farm bill expires at the end of this month.

“If the House passes the bill at the end of the legislative days in September, it would be possible to conference the bill in October and vote on it in November,” Stabenow told reporters in a conference call. “There is no doubt in my mind that we are close enough.”

Noting that the bill passed by the Senate and the bill passed by the House Agricultural Committee are very similar except for the commodity title and the level of cuts in the nutrition title, Stabenow added, “I have complete confidence we can work with out,” but “I have to have something to conference.”

If the House passes a bill by September 30, she said, House and Senate staff could work on the conference report next month, and Congress could pass the report when it comes back for a lame duck session in November.

Stabenow said that while staff had met in August, no decisions had been made on conference items because House farm leaders did not believe they could move forward without direction from their leadership.

There have been suggestions that the Senate should take up a comprehensive disaster bill, but Stabenow said the House leaders have not indicated they are planning a disaster package beyond the livestock disaster bill the House passed in August.

“We need a farm bill that includes comprehensive disaster assistance,” Stabenow said. Noting that the Senate-passed farm bill includes disaster assistance with offsets, she said the House disaster bill “does not help every farmer that had a loss, doesn’t do anything for dairy, doesn’t address fruit losses from freezes.”

She also noted that 13 farm groups have written Senate leaders to urge them not to take up the House-passed livestock disaster bill.

The House Republican leadership is signaling that providing long-term certainty to farmers is “not their priority,” she said.

Urging the House to act, Stabenow said, “This is my fourth farm bill and I have never seen a situation when a bipartisan bill came out of committee and it has not been taken up on the floor. It is true they have a few days in session. After the CR, what is more important to do next than a farm bill? They have plenty of time to do it. Those who don’t want reform would just as soon kick the can down the road and do an extension.”

“It is not about whether we get it a bill, it is when we get it,” Stabenow said. “I am going to continue to push relentlessly. October, November, December, we are going to get a farm bill. If I had a dollar for everyone who said we could not get a bill out of committee I would be a wealthy person.”