Highlights of Senator Stabenow Opening Remarks
In her opening statement to the farm bill conference committee - Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow said the farm bill approved by the Senate represents the biggest reforms to agricultural policy in decades. She noted it ends direct payments, tightens payment limits, modernizes dairy policy and stops people who aren't actively engaged in farming from getting taxpayer subsidies. In an area where the House and Senate agree it's important to reform and strengthen crop insurance - she said the bill expands crop insurance to cover more farmers and more kinds of crops. Stabenow pointed out that the Senate also agrees with the House on the importance of an effective, permanent livestock disaster assistance program. When it comes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - Stabenow said the Senate worked hard to make real reforms to save money - cracking down on fraud and misuse to make sure every dollar is going to families who are truly in need. She said that is the approach needed to achieve bipartisan support for the final farm bill.
Stabenow pointed out that an 11-billion dollar cut to families across the country takes affect this Friday. She said that adding that to the four-billion dollars in cuts in the Senate bill would mean that accepting the Senate Nutrition Title would result in a total of 15-billion in cuts to nutrition. The good news - according to Stabenow - is that CBO projects in their baseline that over 14-million people will no longer need temporary food help over the next few years because the economy is improving and they will be able to go back to work.
While there are many areas that are similar between the House and Senate farm bills - Stabenow said SNAP is not the only difference. She mentioned a provision that would override state government's Constitutional authorities on a wide range of issues including animal welfare, milk standards, labeling of artificial sweeteners and invasive pests - just to name a few. Stabenow said the 16-million men and women whose jobs rely on the strength of agriculture are counting on the farm bill conferees to work together in good faith and get the farm bill done.
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