Senator wants swift action to advance legislation

News
Mar 2, 2012
by DTN

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow said last Tuesday that she moved up the dates of the last two farm bill hearings so that her committee can move more quickly toward marking up the bill.

“We just want a little bit more time to negotiate,” Stabenow, D-MI, told reporters after a hearing on conservation, and noting that she would like to finish the markup as soon as possible.

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Pat Roberts, R-KS, has said he believes the committee will finish its work by Memorial Day.

Stabenow hopes the committee will act on the bill earlier than that. She declined to say when she thinks the bill might go to the Senate floor, saying that is “the domain” of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV.

Stabenow announced last Monday that the nutrition hearing scheduled for March 14 has been moved to March 7 and that the risk management and commodity hearing scheduled for March 21 has been moved to March 14.

Stabenow has said she wants to write a new five-year farm bill rather than extend the current bill or write a slightly altered bill that would last only a year or two.

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-MN, told DTN he is pleased the Senate Agriculture Committee has advanced the schedule. He noted that the Congressional Budget Office is scheduled to release a new baseline of costs for current farm bill programs in mid-March and said he believes the Senate Agriculture Committee could act soon after it receives that report, which will determine how much money the agriculture committees have to spend in the new bill.

Peterson said he believes the House Agriculture Committee will move forward with consideration of a bill once the Senate Agriculture Committee has marked one up. Peterson said he does not believe the House Agriculture Committee would have to wait for Senate floor action, but if the Senate does not take up the bill on the floor, the House will not take it up on the floor either.

Peterson noted that in 2008, when he was chairman and the farm bill expired, Congress extended only those sections of the farm bill that the Agriculture Department needed to operate programs, and added he expects that is what Congress would do this year rather than extend the entire bill. — Jerry Hagstrom, DTN

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