Flake, Stabenow agree direct payments need to go

By Aarian Marshall

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2013 - Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., pressured Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., to reaffirm her commitment to ending direct payments during a Senate floor exchange today. The chairwoman quickly obliged.

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“Direct payments have become recently synonymous with waste, fraud and abuse,” Flake said.

“The program is indefensible in current budget climate,” Stabenow agreed. “It makes no sense to pay farmers when haven't suffered a loss.”

Though the Senate-passed farm bill eliminates direct payments in favor of the crop insurance program, delayed legislation in the House means that a farm bill conference has yet to begin.

That's despite the fact that lawmakers will only have nine legislative days to complete the bill once they return from recess in September. The current one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill is set to expire Sept. 30.

Stabenow and Flake pointed out another one-year extension would continue direct payments.

The senators acknowledged, however, that their gulf between their policy positions remains wide.

The Senate-passed farm bill, written under the leadership of Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Stabenow, “leaves much to be desired,” said Flake. He said he hoped a conference might produce a bill with “dramatic changes to reduce the taxpayer cost” of farm policy.

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