Stabenow Promises Farm Bill Progress

Recent statements by Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow indicate that the Senate is close to taking action on the 2012 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill, renewed every five years, is set to expire at the end of 2012, potentially endangering access to vital farm loans and subsidy programs. Despite the urgency of crafting replacement legislation, the partisan bickering in Congress has led many to question whether a new bill could be passed.
At the beginning of February, however, Stabenow released a tentative schedule of Senate hearings that will address the availability of farm loans, conservation programs, and vital federal agricultural policies. The tentative schedule that Stabenow released extends into March and will address energy and rural development, conservation, healthy food initiatives, and commodity management. Connected to all of these discussions will be federal funding and the role of farm loans in promoting agricultural policies.
Stabenow was unable to commit as to when the bill will reach the floor. However, she reiterated that she and Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, the ranking Republican on the committee, are committed to passing a bill soon in order to guarantee the continuation of farm loans, farm subsidies, and grants. In addition, Stabenow stated that she and Frank Lucas, the chair of the House Agriculture Committee, are working together to guarantee that farmers continue to have access to vital farm programs, federal safety nets, and federal farm loans.
Stabenow also indicated that despite its failure, the work of the deficit-reducing supercommittee would play a major role in guiding the Farm Bill debate. The supercommittee, in an attempt to cut deficit spending, had suggested billions of dollars in federal farm cuts and subsidy reductions. Farm loans and farm safety nets, however, were relatively insulated given Stabenow’s commitment that farmers continue to receive protection from the worst of the agriculture sector’s volatility. Stabenow’s promise to continue to fight for these safety nets has reassured many farmers, but until access to farm loans and grants is guaranteed by the passage of a new Farm Bill, many farmers are unwilling to breathe a sigh of relief just yet.