WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2014 – Shortly after riding a Republican wave into a re-election victory, Kansas Senator Pat Roberts wants to reassure everyone – and especially Rep. Collin Peterson - that he’s not planning to rewrite the farm bill.

“I just left a voice message for Collin Peterson and told him to calm down and play his guitar and I would sing cool, cool waters with him. I have no desire whatsoever to open it (the farm bill) up and I don’t think it would be the right thing to do,” Roberts told Agri-Pulse.

Roberts was responding to comments made by Peterson, who serves as the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Agriculture. The day after he was re-elected to his 13th term in Minnesota, Peterson told reporters that he had concerns about Roberts serving as the next likely chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

"He has made some noise about opening up the farm bill if he gets to be chairman, which is a very bad idea, and puts everything we worked for in jeopardy," Peterson told the Associated Press. He pointed out that Roberts used his position as chairman of the House panel in 1996 to pass the "Freedom to Farm" act, which was designed to wean farmers off subsidies in exchange for more flexibility in deciding what to grow. Roberts also voted against this year's farm bill,” the AP article noted.

Roberts said all of the speculation is “very presumptuous. I have not even been selected yet or voted on to be chairman.” But when asked if there was any doubt, he said, “No, but it would be nice to talk to the members that are on the Ag committee and seek their support as well as the leadership. All that has yet to happen.”

Roberts served eight terms in the House and chaired the House Committee on Agriculture from  1995-1997.

Roberts said the first thing he would do, if selected as Senate Agriculture Committee chair, is to “sit down with members and determine their priorities, both on the Republican and Democrat side, with the ranking member. And then move from there.”

The current chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., is widely expected to stay on the committee as ranking member next year.

“I just wanted to set that record straight: We have child nutrition and CFTC (reauthorization) that are coming right up on us,” Roberts explained. “So those would be two objectives, plus farmers are complaining more about regulation than they are the farm bill. We might address that but we would have to figure out exactly how.”

Roberts noted that his primary concern with the 2014 farm bill was to first save, then improve the crop insurance program. 

“Most of those changes don’t take effect until 2015 so we’ll have to do some oversight on that for sure. I think we’ll have to do a lot of oversight,” he added. “This is a brand new farm bill; but that doesn’t mean we rewrite it. You know, farmers want consistency more than anything else.”

Rep. Peterson did not respond to a request for comment. 


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