The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


Stabenow pushes for disaster aid, farm bill; Lucas ponders value of one-year extension

The House should take up the farm bill rather than consider separate disaster aid because farmers need both disaster aid and a farm bill with long-term policy, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said in a call to reporters today.

Meanwhile, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., appeared to be leaning toward a one-year extension with disaster aid while still working on the new bill.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
Congress “won’t do the farmers and ranchers any favors” by passing short-term disaster assistance without providing long-term policy through the farm bill, Stabenow said, referring to the possibility that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, may favor passing a farm bill extension with disaster aid attached.

But Lucas said the extension could be an acceptable option, according to a National Journal Daily report today.

“There can be a legitimate argument made that a one-year extension — and still do the farm bill in regular order — will allow for a more orderly transition from the old policies to the new,” Lucas said.

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla.
Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla.
Lucas said he was confident that something would be done. “Clearly, this has become a much higher focus for leadership in recent days, and that’s good,” he said.

A House GOP leadership aide also said that a one-year extension could pass the House, provided it includes disaster insurance that would help cover drought-affected livestock herds, NJ reported.

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said he would oppose an extension.

Lucas said he believes that going to conference with the Senate without going to the House floor is unlikely. “I suppose anything is possible, but remember many members were not particularly impressed with [transportation shell bill] even if they voted for it,” he said.

A lobbyist also said today that Congress may not want to take away direct payments from farmers who are experiencing a drought.

Stabenow said Michigan farmers are telling her they want a farm bill, not just short-term disaster aid, adding that she believes other members will get this message during the August break.

The farm bill would make it easier for some farmers to buy crop insurance, she noted. If the bill does not create the opportunity to expand crop insurance, farmers may be in the same position next year if there is a drought, she added.

Stabenow confirmed that she,Lucas, Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., met last night and discussed the farm bill situation. Stabenow said the four had discussed the process of moving forward, rather than the specifics of what it would take to reach agreement on a conference report that the House and Senate could pass.

But she said House and Senate staff should be in a position to use the August break to negotiate on differences between the House and Senate bills in the nutrition title and the commodity title. She noted there is already a lot of agreement on conservation and on programs to help the fruit and vegetable industry.

“There is no reason not to get this done,” Stabenow said. “If folks want to work together and get this done, I am very confident that we can.”