By Kristin Merony and Sarah Gonzalez

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2012 –Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., stressed urgency for the House of Representatives to pass a farm bill because of the “looming deadline and widespread drought conditions” during a teleconference with media today.
“We have never seen the House Ag Committee pass a bill out of committee that wasn’t taken up on the floor,” Stabenow said.  

The four principals of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees met yesterday, but did not come up with any “revelations,” according to House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn. 

“An extension doesn’t get you anything,” he said, noting his distaste for a short-term extension of the current farm bill, but added that he and the other agricultural leaders are attempting to set up a pre-conference between the House and Senate before Sept 30. 

Stabenow noted that the four leaders “didn’t get into specifics on policy,” but focused on the process going forward.  

“It is important that we have a signal from leadership in the House and Senate and a path forward so we can sit down and use August as a time to negotiate,” she said. 

Stabenow also mentioned that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is supportive of a farm bill conference.

“Senator Reid has been very supportive of us moving forward. In total, procedurally, we used three weeks of the Senate session, which is precious, limited time to be able to complete our work,” Stabenow said. “He has indicated he supports our coming together and getting a path forward and he wants to get it done.”  

After a hearing of the House Agriculture Committee Wednesday, Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., also indicated that a plan to progress with the farm bill is in limbo, but that he’d be reaching out to Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio. House leadership has not scheduled floor time for the farm bill passed through the House Agriculture Committee, making a one-year extension of current policy more likely. 

Stabenow noted on Wednesday that short-term solutions, like creating a disaster aid package for livestock producers in lieu of a farm bill, would be less than ideal.

“We do not do our farmers and ranchers any favors by doing a short-term, ad hoc disaster program,” she said. Growers from across the country are “not asking for stop-gap measures, they want us to step up, work together and complete the job,” she added.  

“We will deal with an extension in September if we need to, but I have to say that there is no reason we cannot get this done,” she said. 

Stabenow said leaders need to use August as a time to negotiate, especially for the differences around the commodity title and nutrition programs, but she remains “confident that we can work them out, but we need time to do that.”

“The ideal is that the House will pass a farm bill and send it to us to negotiate,” she said. “It would be a real shame if we cannot get something done.”

Stabenow also said she knows of no fail-safe deadline for an extension, noting only that “it is important that we use the time in August to be able to work together and work out our differences.”

“If we have an agreement things can move very quickly,” she said. “There is no reason we can’t move quickly if there is an agreement on substance.”

“Farmers and ranchers do not get the luxury of going on recess or a break,” Stabenow added. “We need to put in place the mechanism that will allow us to be able to negotiate and pass a final farm bill before the September 30 deadline.”


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