The themes that emerged from Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow's (D-Mich.) address of ag stakeholders at the 2012 Farm Journal Forum hosted with Informa Economics, was optimism that ag leaders in the House and Senate will be able to work together to complete a farm bill and opposition to an extension of the current farm bill. She made it very clear that she does not consider kicking the can down the road to 2013 to be an option.
Stabenow came straight from a meeting at the White House on export policy, at which she said she told President Obama that if he needs help on the fiscal cliff, those on the ag committee know how to work together to get things done.
This set the tone of her address. She said that ag committee members are "ready and willing" to put forth farm bill savings to address the fiscal cliff. Several times, she made reference to the fact that last year the Ag Committee was the only panel that followed through in offering cuts as part of the failed Super Committee debt reduction process.
She notd that while getting a farm bill through committee was not easy, when "people of good will sit around a table, you can always figure things out." She elaborated that the difference is that every single person on the committee cares about ag, conservation and nutrition. For that reason, she is confident they'll get a farm bill done.
Stabenow noted that "honest policy differences remain to be brokered" and that both the House ag panel and Senate versions of the farm bill make a strong case for certain components. But she also says there are plenty of areas of agreement -- notably that a five-year farm bill is needed, direct payments should be eliminated, similar conservation titles and crop insurance is a key risk management tool. She says this common ground is where lawmakers should start and then they can come together to work on tough issues.
"There is no excuse not to get a farm bill … or long-term deficit plan," Stabenow says, emphasizing that not doing so would be "irresponsible."
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