Stabenow pushes House to pass farm bill
The U.S. Senate passed its version of the 2012 Farm Bill last month. Now, it’s up to the House of Representatives. Hopefully, House leaders will overcome the “partisan posturing” of an election year and do what needs to be done, said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
Stabenow talked about the farm bill and other issues July 9, during a visit to the orchard of Jim May in Sparta, Mich.
Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, steered passage of the Senate’s version of the 2012 Farm Bill. The ag committee of the House of Representatives is considering its own version this week. If the committee passes the bill, it will then be up to the full House to pass it, which might be difficult considering that it’s an election year. Whatever happens, the current farm bill is set to expire Sept. 30, she said.
Stabenow talked about the damage the weather did to Michigan fruit crops this spring, when an abnormally warm March was followed by a series of freezes in April that killed a huge number of fruit crops, especially cherries and apples. Michigan might get 15 percent of its average apple crop and 7 percent of its average cherry crop, according to industry estimates.
The state government has offered disaster assistance to growers in the form of low-interest loans. So has the federal government. Out of 83 total counties in Michigan, 72 were declared disaster areas. That gives an idea of the scope of crop losses, Stabenow said.
Rural development loans are available for related businesses, such as packers and processors, she said.
On top of current federal assistance, the Senate’s 2012 Farm Bill would allow producers without access to crop insurance to retroactively purchase 65 percent “buy-up” coverage for losses this year, under the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, according to Stabenow.
The Senate moved away from traditional crop subsidies in its 2012 bill, cutting four programs and redirecting much of that money toward crop insurance. The Senate version would cut a total of $23 billion from the farm bill, Stabenow said.
The 2008 Farm Bill was the first to provide aid to specialty crops, and Stabenow’s goal was to build on that this year. That was accomplished, she said.
The House bill, if passed, would be different from the Senate bill. Those differences can be worked out when the two chambers put their versions together in a conference committee, she said.
The most important thing is to get the House leadership to take up the bill and guide it through a full vote. A lot of political gamesmanship is going on right now heading into November, which is leading to a lot of economic uncertainty. Democrats and Republicans alike need to urge their leaders to get this done. Agriculture employs 16 million people in this country. It’s too important to ignore, Stabenow said.
– Matt Milkovich