Stabenow Won’t Back Another Farm Bill Extension

Young, left, and Stabenow appeared together at a farm rally outside the Capitol on Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Young, left, and Stabenow appeared together at a farm rally outside the Capitol on Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted September 9, 2013 at 4:39pm

Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow told attendees at a farm bill rally outside the Capitol that she won’t back another short-term extension of farm programs.

Stabenow wants House Republican leaders to agree to take the farm bill to conference, even without an answer on what the House will do about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.

“The leadership needs to trust and support [the House Agriculture Committee] and just simply go to conference, appoint conferees, quit playing politics with food assistance,” the Michigan Democrat said.

“We’ve got 21 days left before Sept. 30. We will not see an extension passed, and if we did, we’d be leaving livestock producers in a lurch, and a whole lot of other people in a lurch,” Stabenow said, referring to the expiration date for the current farm extension. “It makes no sense. I don’t support doing it.”

Stabenow also complained that some want to take the money saved by eliminating direct payments without doing a full overhaul of farm programs.

She expanded on that point when speaking with reporters after the event.

“What that does is make it more difficult for us to have a strong conservation title, to strengthen crop insurance, to address local food systems, energy title,” Stabenow said, noting that none of the savings generated in the budget from eliminating direct payments are used elsewhere in the broader five-year bill.

The farm bill is one of a slew of items on a packed September agenda, particularly given the debate over intervention in Syria, but the uncertain future makes it more difficult for farmers to plan.

Speaking briefly at the same event, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., encouraged attendees from the agriculture community to push the House into action.

The event attracted no shortage of cameras, probably thanks to the presence of Neil Young. Young was on hand advocating for a strong renewable-fuel standard.

Reid, however, noted his disappointment that the legendary singer-songwriter didn’t bring a guitar. He briefly played Young’s music over the sound system set up for the event by putting his phone close to the microphone.

The National Farmers Union hosted the farm bill rally outside the Russell Senate Office Building, with a large number of people associated with the group in attendance, who are in Washington to lobby for passage of the five-year farm bill.