Senate Ag Comm. Chair urges farm bill coalition to stick together | TSLN.com

Senate Ag Comm. Chair urges farm bill coalition to stick together

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who will lose her chairmanship when the Republicans take control of the Senate, used her speech to the Farm Journal Forum today to recall the successes of the bipartisan coalition that backed the farm bill.

She said that broad coalition will be important on the reauthorization of child nutrition programs and other issues in the future.

There was a series of "tense times" in Congress while the farm bill was under consideration, Stabenow said, noting the 2011 budget crisis and the creation of the super committee and the 2012 fiscal cliff, but "agriculture came together and did its job, and the 2014 farm bill is law."

Because of the five-year farm bill, she noted to reporters, there is more certainty in the agriculture sector than in any other part of the American economy.

"To be able to look down the road even five years now is a big deal in the climate we are in," Stabenow said.

Stabenow said the passage of the farm bill was "a real accomplishment politically" but that the policies are even more important.

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"The strength of the coalition this time around was its diversity," Stabenow said, noting it had the support of everyone from farmers to sportsmen and clean-energy producers.

Stabenow also urged the coalition to come together behind reauthorization of the child nutrition programs, which, she noted, include more than the school meals program.

Child nutrition programs, she said, have to help the children who don't have enough to eat, and try to reverse the childhood obesity rates that have risen in recent decades. Summer meals programs need to be improved for urban and rural children, she said.

In what may be a reference to the differences over school meals that may make it difficult to pass a child nutrition reauthorization bill, Stabenow said, "If the agriculture coalition can pass a farm bill through this Congress, we can do anything. I am counting on all of you to help us tackle things in the right way" rather than "going after people" or taking "partisan potshots."

Talking to reporters, Stabenow also said she does not expect the farm bill to be reopened and that she and incoming Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., are united on that point.

The certainty of the five-year farm bill "can't be undervalued," Stabenow said.

–The Hagstrom Report