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Public Statements

Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. STABENOW. Madam President, at this point I want to take a moment before we vote today to recognize folks who have worked so hard to get us to this point.

First of all, I thank my colleagues in advance for coming together one more time and leading for rural America--for farmers, for ranchers, for the 16 million people who have jobs because of agriculture in this country. It has been a long road for the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act, and I have been blessed and pleased to have a wonderful partner and ranking member, the distinguished Senator from Mississippi. He has been a partner every step of the way, and I thank him and look forward--as the House hopefully this time will complete their work--to having the opportunity to go to conference and crafting an agreement we can then present back to the Senate. I can't thank Senator Cochran and his staff enough for their wonderful partnership.

We started this last year. We had 3 weeks that the farm bill was on the floor of the Senate. We had 73 votes, adopted 42 amendments, and we took that as the basis for the bill this year. Once the House did not take up the bill--and, in my judgment, walked away from rural America last year--we had to come back and do it again, so we used the work product the Senate did last year as the basis of our work, and we had 2 weeks of debate on the floor of the Senate. We have added 14 more amendments to the bill that is in front of us.

So I thank the majority leader for his hard work and leadership and patience. As always, he knows how important agriculture is to our economy, how important it is to support rural communities and families and consumers around our country. I appreciate that he has not just once but twice given us precious time on the Senate floor so that we could do our job in standing up for rural America and for consumers across this country.

I am proud we once again voted--or are about to vote today--in a bipartisan way to move this bill forward. This bill has been bipartisan from start to finish, and I believe that is the reason for our success. I am grateful to colleagues who have worked in such a diligent way on both sides of the aisle. There are many leaders on both sides of the aisle on this bill. We wouldn't be here today without leadership on both sides of the aisle, and I am very grateful for that. This is how the Senate is designed to work, where people who care very deeply on both sides of an issue can sit down--in our case, around a table in the Senate agriculture room--look each other in the eye, talk to each other, listen, and make the compromises necessary to come together with a balanced bill. That is what we did.

Last year we passed the farm bill, as I said before, in a bipartisan way as well. The House Agriculture Committee passed a bipartisan farm bill last year, but for whatever reason the full House didn't consider the bill. It was allowed to expire. The good news is that this year it looks as though it is going to be different. That is good news for rural America and the men and women who work hard every day to give us the safest, most affordable, most abundant food supply in the world--in the world.

I thank my incredible staff, who have done this now not once but twice. Actually, because we engaged and had a work product when the supercommittee deficit commission was operating, we have actually done this three times. I think they could do farm bills in their sleep. Hopefully they have not been sleeping when they have been writing this one, but I am very grateful for their leadership.

I thank Chris Adamo, my terrific staff director for the Agriculture Committee, who is living and breathing these issues every minute and only takes occasional breaks to go fly fishing in Michigan. We have a historic agreement on conservation and crop insurance in this bill thanks to his leadership and that of our team.

Jonathan Coppess, our chief counsel, and Joe Shultz, our economist extraordinaire, who understand the ins and outs of agriculture like nobody else, have done so much as we have transitioned in this bill toward market-based risk management tools for our farmers.

Jonathan Cordone, our general counsel, crossed every ``t'' and dotted every ``i'' in this bill, and frankly, there are a lot of them. He has been keeping track of all the amendments and making sure this process runs smoothly.

Karla Theiman, who leads our livestock and dairy issues, has helped make the energy title something we could really be proud of. I am very grateful for all her leadership and hard work.

Tina May, who wrote our original conservation title and then decided to go have a baby, is amazing. She knows more about conservation than anyone I know, and we are very proud that not only the conservation title in the Senate but one that is very similar in the House bears the mark of her hard work and leadership.

I do want to note that Jonathan Coppess had a son during the last farm bill and Tina had a son during this farm bill. So I am not sure what it is about farm bills, but we will see what comes next.

One thing about Tina's maternity leave is that it allowed us to get the T2 team back together. Kevin Norton came back from the USDA to work with Catie Lee, as they picked up very excellently the heavy load and made it look easy. Thanks to them, our country will have healthy wildlife habitats and clean, fishable waters for generations to come.

Jacqlyn Schneider, who is another of our farm bill veterans, ably led our nutrition team and has done such a wonderful job. She has done so much for the diversity of American agriculture through organics, fruits and vegetables, and all the things we call specialty crops, as well as Jess Taylor. Jess has done terrific work in partnership as well.

Brandon McBride led our efforts to reorganize the rural development title and worked so hard this year to make sure the energy title continued to grow the economy in rural America.

Russ Behnam is our expert on technology issues--biotechnology issues--on crop protection and has lent very important expertise to our efforts. I am grateful.

Cory Claussen led our efforts on dairy last year, and his hard work led to the major advances we have made in this bill for beginning farmers and ranchers as well as for our veterans who want to get into agriculture.

I am very proud that in our bill we have a new agriculture liaison for our veterans. So many of our men and women coming home are from small communities around America, and they want to have the opportunity to go into farming, and we want to help them do that.

Cory is also leading our CFTC efforts, so Cory's work is just getting started. Hanna Abou-El-Seoud, who kept the trains running on time, made sure we were all prepared and prepped--no easy job as well. Alexis Stanczuk and Kyle Varner, who is the newest member of our team, have once again done a great job doing whatever needed to be done in order to help us be successful. Jessie Williams, Nicole Hertenstein, Jacob Chaney, and our entire great team on the committee have helped us to get to this point.

I also wish to say thank you to my chief of staff Dan Farough, who manages our personal office; Matt VanKuiken, my terrific legislative director who followed the floor procedure and made sure everything was happening as it should; Bill Sweeney, my great deputy chief of staff; Cullen Schwarz, my communications director; and Ben Becker, our press secretary who made sure we were telling the story of rural America and this farm bill and the reforms in it every day. We couldn't have done it without them and our entire team, Matt Williams, Will Eberle, and Alex Barriger.

I wish to thank my State team and all of the outreach efforts led by the outstanding Teresa Plachetka, Kali Fox, Mary Judnich, Brandon Fewins, and Korey Hall, making sure that Michigan is truly represented on every page.

This was a bipartisan effort, and I wish to thank everyone on Senator Cochran's team, especially T.A. Hawks and James Gleueck, for their leadership. Once again, Doug Elmendorf's CBO farm team came through thanks to Jim Langley and everyone on their team.

I wish to thank Kasey Gillette from Senator Reid's office, who is part of our extended family. It is great working with her again. This is like a second annual family reunion, always having Kasey with us.

Nothing could get done around here without our excellent floor staff who have been led by Gary Myrick and Tim Mitchell, and thank you to everybody on our team for their very long hours as usual.

Of course, we wouldn't have had anything to pass without the amazing expertise of our legislative counsel team, Michelle Johnson-Wieder and Gary Endicott, and their invaluable assistance;last, but not least, the great team at the USDA and who I believe is an absolutely terrific Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, and his General Counsel's Office.

There are so many people to thank. I will stop. There are other colleagues who wish to speak. I just want everyone to know that when you take basically 12 different chapters or titles--any one of which could be its own piece of legislation--and put it together in something called a 5-year farm bill, it happens because of a tremendous amount of talent and experience and hard work and it happens because, in our case, we have what I believe is the most seasoned Agriculture Committee former chairs, former Secretary of Agriculture. We have people who know agriculture and care about it deeply. With so much talent and experience, it has been a real privilege--and continues to be--to chair this committee.

This farm bill is the product of 2 years of hard work by a long list of talented people. As we vote today, we support 16 million people who depend on agriculture for their jobs. We are providing $24 billion in deficit reduction on a bipartisan basis. We are providing policies that will conserve our land and our water resources for generations to come; that help families who have fallen on hard times keep food on the table for their children; a bill that helps our veterans get started in agriculture; that supports our small towns all across America; and recognizes the diversity of American agriculture and strengthens efforts to give families the opportunity to buy fresh local food in their supermarkets and have it available in their schools. This farm bill creates jobs.

I am very proud of the work we have done, and I ask all of our colleagues to support us in voting yes today on this bill.

I yield 5 minutes to Senator Klobuchar.

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Ms. STABENOW. I would just indicate to my colleague who has been such a strong advocate for his State, for his growers, his people--I am very grateful for that.

He has made his case very strongly. I understand that once a tree is exposed to the disease, there is no cure. The tree will die within 5 years. It must be entirely replaced. In fact, as the Senator indicated, this is something that affects many States--not only Florida but Texas, California, Louisiana, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia as well. So I know this is a serious issue for our citrus growers, and I am committed to working with Senator Baucus to make sure the trust funds for citrus, as well as cotton and wool, are included in the final conference committee.

I know these are concerns shared by a number of our colleagues, and I look forward to working with the Senator from Florida as well as other colleagues. This is a very important issue.

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Ms. STABENOW. Madam President, let me just say in conclusion that I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure there is a guaranteed source of funding for the citrus trust fund. I understand the devastation to an entire industry that he is speaking about to and look forward to working with him.

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Ms. STABENOW. I thank the Senator for raising this important issue. In Michigan the same industries employ over 24,600 people and I agree that these jobs are vital to the economy. I was pleased to be able to lay out a clearer path forward in this farm bill for the inclusion of forest products in USDA's Biobased Markets Program.

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Ms. STABENOW. Yes, it is our intent to include forest products that apply an innovative approach to growing, harvesting, sourcing, procuring, processing, manufacturing, or application of biobased products. Products should be included regardless of the date of entry of the product into the marketplace.

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Ms. STABENOW. I appreciate the Senator mentioning Verso, since they also have a mill in Quinnesec, MI and recently made a significant investment in upgrading its energy system. It is our intention that products that are sourced with innovative sourcing strategies like forest certification systems and products that have improved their manufacturing are included in the program.

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Ms. STABENOW. That truly is what we are trying to inspire with this innovation provision we are trying to help companies think outside the box in how they can improve their processes. Their efforts in both energy generation from waste and land conservation are both excellent examples that they are doing so.

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