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Need for Strong Safety Net, Streamlining Farm Bill Programs

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Wichita, KS

Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today joined Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KS) at a Committee field hearing in Wichita, Kansas. They heard from farmers, producers and agricultural leaders on how the Committee can work to strengthen the next Farm Bill. Senator Stabenow underscored the need for maintaining a strong safety net, pointing to the severe drought conditions that are impacting farmers and producers across Kansas as a dire example.

"Certainly, farmers here in Kansas know the importance of a strong farm safety net," Senator Stabenow said. "You've been dealing with a record drought this year that is devastating crops and livestock production. Suffice it to say, if we ever needed a reminder about the risks farmers face, we got it this year. And that is the top principle I'm focused on as we get started with the new Farm Bill."

Senator Stabenow further underscored the need to focus on streamlining and consolidating Farm Bill programs as the Committee seeks to strengthen agricultural policy in an austere budget environment.

"We need to be evaluating everything the government does, measuring every program, and streamlining and consolidating programs" Senator Stabenow said. "We held a hearing on this topic earlier in the year, and I hope we can change things to make it easier on farmers and ranchers -- less paperwork, less bureaucracy, and more time to do what you're in business to do.

This isn't going to be an easy process, but I'm glad to have a great partner in Senator Roberts. He and I have worked closely together on a number of issues, and I'm confident we can find common-sense solutions that will support and strengthen American Agriculture and rural communities while helping to put our country on better financial footing for years to come."


Chairwoman Stabenow's opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below.

Opening Statement as Prepared for Delivery

Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow

August 25, 2011

Good morning, and thank you all for being here. The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry will now come to order.

It's great to be here in Kansas with all of you. I want to thank Senator Roberts for hosting this important field hearing -- he graciously came out to Michigan for our first field hearing, and I am happy to join him here in Kansas for our second one. With that I would like to turn the hearing over to my good friend Senator Roberts for his opening statement.

****

Thanks, Pat. Certainly, farmers here in Kansas know the importance of a strong farm safety net. You've been dealing with a record drought this year that is devastating crops and livestock production. Suffice it to say, if we ever needed a reminder about the risks farmers face, we got it this year. And that is the top principle I'm focused on as we get started with the new Farm Bill.

But as we go into this process, we are facing a serious budget situation that forces us to look at this Farm Bill differently than we have in the past. We need to be evaluating everything the government does, measuring every program, and streamlining and consolidating programs.

We held a hearing on this topic earlier in the year, and I hope we can change things to make it easier for farmers and ranchers -- less paperwork, less bureaucracy, and more time to do what you're in business to do.

But there are also going to be painful choices ahead. There is no doubt that Agriculture is going to face another round of serious cuts. Agriculture has already taken substantial and in my judgment, disproportionate cuts within the current budget. Let's review the facts: the House of Representatives passed a bill earlier in the year that would have cut $48 billion from production agriculture's baseline. That bill did not have the votes in the Senate.

Then, Senator Roberts and I worked very hard and successfully to create a process where the Agriculture Committees can recommend the deficit reduction cuts and policies related to them. As a result, the deficit reduction agreement didn't make any immediate cuts to Agriculture, but Ag remains a target when the new "super committee" finalizes their plan reduce the budget by $1.2 trillion or more. We on this Committee have until October 14th to give this new Committee our recommendations, so it's now even more important that we hear your thoughts today as we work through what the Committee recommends.

Bottom line: we in agriculture must make some tough decisions, or someone else will do it for us.
This Farm Bill will look different than Farm Bills in the past, which is why I've asked everyone from the beginning of this process to be thinking about principles, not programs.

We can't get bogged down in the old arguments and bureaucracy -- we need to focus on what farmers need, and the most efficient and cost-effective ways to address those needs.

We welcome your input. We need your input. What are the risk management tools that farmers in the great state of Kansas need? What should an effective farm safety net look like? What are your priorities? What programs can we streamline or consolidate?

This isn't going to be an easy process, but I'm glad to have a great partner in Senator Roberts. He and I have worked closely together on a number of issues, and I'm confident we can find common-sense solutions that will support and strengthen American Agriculture and rural communities while helping to put our country on better financial footing for years to come.


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