Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., won’t seek re-election in 2024, she said Thursday, but will serve the remaining two years of her term, positioning her to shape a new farm bill in this Congress.
Stabenow, who has been the Ag Committee’s senior Democrat since 2011, has co-authored the past two farm bills, first as chairwoman of Senate Ag when the 2014 law was developed and then as ranking member of the committee when the 2018 bill passed. Congress is due to write a new farm bill this year.
“For the next two years, I am intensely focused on continuing this important work to improve the lives of Michiganders. This includes leading the passage of the next five-year farm bill, which determines our nation’s food and agriculture policies,” she said in a statement.
“It is also key in protecting our land and water and creating jobs in our rural and urban communities.”
Stabenow has used the Ag Committee position to successfully push for increased funding for nutrition assistance programs, often clashing with House Republicans in the process. She also has pushed to expand farm bill assistance beyond the traditional row crops, a move that ultimately broadened support for farm programs in the Senate, and she won increased aid for the dairy industry.
And last year, she got an historic increase in conservation program spending as part of the Inflation Reduction Act.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters it was good news that Stabenow "indicated her interest in in attempt to finish out her term, which means that she has two more years of effective leadership.
"I can tell you that from my experience as the secretary of agriculture and my experience as a governor I don't know of another member of the Senate that has been any more successful in getting complicated, complex legislation through that process."
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., issued a statement that paid tribute to Stabenow's Ag Committee work.
Stabenow "has made sure schools and meal providers fed hungry kids during the worst days of the pandemic. She spearheaded relief for America’s farmers and provided the stability they needed to make sure America has a stable food supply.
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"And because of Debbie’s leadership in the Senate, there are more good-paying jobs in rural America today. Debbie partnered with Republicans and led the charge to expand federal funding for community behavior health clinics across the country to support mental health and fight substance abuse."
In addition to the Ag Committee responsibilities, Stabenow also has been a member of the Senate Democratic leadership as chairwoman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.
The top Republican on the Senate Ag Committee, John Boozman of Arkansas, said in a statement he and Stabenow worked well together "to get important legislation, both to help producers and ensure children have access to healthy and nutritious meals during the summer, passed into law.
"We will continue to build on those efforts as we work to pass a farm bill this year that will provide producers with the safety net they need during a very precarious time for agriculture."
Stabenow, 72, became the first Michigan woman elected to the Senate in 2000, defeating incumbent GOP Sen. Spencer Abraham.
In her statement Thursday, she said she was “inspired by a new generation of leaders” to “pass the torch in the U.S. Senate.”
After she leaves the Senate, she plans to serve Michigan "outside of elected office while spending precious time with my amazing 96-year-old mom and my wonderful family," Stabenow said.
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, who is in line for the top Democratic spot on the Senate Ag Committee if Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota pass it up, said in a tweet that Stabenow has "been a relentless advocate for the state of Michigan and American agriculture. I’m grateful for her service in the Senate, and look forward to continuing to work together on another farm bill."
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