Stabenow urges House to begin farm bill conference

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, July 16, 2013 - Senate Agriculture, Forestry and Nutrition Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., urged the House Monday to begin the conference process of a five-year farm bill (H.R. 2642) with the Senate.

“We're ready to go to conference with a bipartisan bill that we passed twice,” Stabenow said. “We want to do it this week.”

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The House approved, on a partisan 216-208 vote, its bill July 11, which would strip the nutrition program from the rest of the farm policy legislation. The House bill also seeks to repeal the 1949 and 1938 permanent laws, which are considered major strongholds for agricultural interests.

By contrast, the Senate-approved farm bill does not remove the Title IV provisions or repeal permanent law.

Stabenow said lawmakers have “only 24 days” to resolve these differences and send legislation to President Obama before the current one-year extension of agricultural policy expires at the end of September.

“I'm willing to take what the House gives us and put it back together again,” she said. “I'm calling on [House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio] to send us what passed on Thursday.”

Stabenow said she has spoken to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., about the status of the bill.

“They are anxious to get to conference,” she said. “It appears [House] leadership wants to pass a nutrition bill [first.]”

On the possible repeal of permanent law, Stabenow said that would have “wide implications” in the agricultural sector, especially for “anyone who cares about conservation.” She noted there is “deep opposition” against such a move by stakeholders.

On the removal of the nutrition title, Stabenow said it is conceivable to continue the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program through the appropriations process. However, she said that could make the program more vulnerable to funding cuts.

Ferd Hoefner, policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said his group also is calling for an immediate farm bill conference.

“There are enough days left before the farm bill extension expires to conference the bills and create a comprehensive and bipartisan result that can be signed into law, but only if the process begins now,” Hoefner said. “There is a lot of work to be done, so let's get started and create a final bill that maximizes reform and invests in the future of food and farming.”

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