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Stabenow focused on new farm bill in lame-duck session

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said late today that she will ”do everything possible” to get a new farm bill finished in the lame duck session despite House leadership's unwillingness to bring the bill to the House floor.

In a telephone call to reporters, Stabenow said that after the statement of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, today that he would "deal with" the farm bill in the lame duck session, Stabenow said she is "confident" he will bring it up, but added, "we will hold him to that."

The question, she is said, is whether the House speaker "will support his chairman,” Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla, who has passed a bill through the House Agriculture Committee.

Boehner has said he does not think there are enough votes to pass the bill on the House floor because some members think there has been too much reform and others think there has been too little,but Stabenow said that if he approaches it in "a bipartisan way," the votes will be there.

Stabenow also said that despite the differences between the House and Senate versions of the commodity title, "I believe we can come to the middle and get that resolved."

But she also said that so far there has been no signal from the House that there could be any conference work done during the recess until November 13. She noted that she had hoped "pre-conference" work would be done in August, but that the House leadership did not approve that idea.

The permanent agricultural law, which is based on acts passed in the 1930s and in 1949, will technically go into effect on October 1, but Stabenow noted that no provisions of it would become important until January. Those old laws, Stabenow said, "would not work for today’s agriculture."

Stabenow declined to comment on what would happen if the farm bill doesn’t come up until 2013, saying she is focused on getting a bill done this year and that she is "very concerned about the baseline" if it doesn’t.

Stabenow also said she discarded the idea of a stand-alone disaster bill because farm group leaders told they thought it would be better to pass a comprehensive farm bill rather than disaster legislation.

The Environmental Working Group recently said it would support disaster aid for livestock and dairy producers but not for fruit growers, because they have crop insurance.

Stabenow refuted that statement, saying that growers in only two counties in Michigan can get crop insurance. The EWG statement " doesn’t have any relationship to reality," she said, adding that she would be happy to welcome EWG officials to Traverse City or the northern peninsula to see the situation there.

On politics, Stabenow said she cannot imagine that any senator would have any negative impact from voting for the bill, but that Republican House members may see some.

"Despite our best efforts to keep this out of the political season" by finishing the bill early, which gave the House "plenty of time to act in the summer,” she said, the speaker and the Republican leadership decided not to."

"They will be held accountable. I am sure this will be an issue for many people in the election," Stabenow said.