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Public Statements

Farm Bill

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. STABENOW. Madam President, first, I did come to the floor to talk about the urgency of the farm bill, but I also want to thank my friend and colleague from Colorado, who chairs our conservation subcommittee, for the tremendous piece of work on the conservation title in the farm bill. I thank him for all of that effort and also say to him I understand what is happening in Colorado. As he and I know, we passed disaster assistance--a permanent livestock disaster assistance program--in our farm bill, along with help for food growers in Michigan and other places.

We are totally committed in the short run to helping those who have the riskiest business in the world, which is farming and ranching in this country, but we also know what they want is the economic certainty of a 5-year farm bill. So I thank my friend for all of his efforts and in coming to the floor.

I want to say, for the record, there are 10 days until September 30--10 days until the farm bill expires and 16 million people in this country who rely on agriculture for their jobs or their livelihood are put in limbo. That is the reality of where we are.

We worked so hard, on a bipartisan basis in the Senate, to pass a farm bill,
and we did that as quickly as we could so the House would have time to act and we could actually get things done in the summer before we got involved in what would be happening in the fall, with all of the critically important end-of-the-year issues that have to be addressed. So we passed a bill in June, as we all know, on a bipartisan basis. It took a lot of work.

I continually thank everyone who was willing to hang in there with us to get this done--my ranking member, Senator Roberts, and our two leaders for giving us the time to do this. We worked hard and we got it done and we sent it to the House. Then the House committee went to work and they passed out a bipartisan bill. Never before, that I can remember--and I have been around here a while; this is my fourth farm bill--have we seen a situation where a bipartisan bill came out of committee and yet the House wouldn't take it up. They wouldn't take it up in July, the beginning of August, and wouldn't agree to allow us to negotiate differences over the August break to come up with a way to get this done by the end of this month.

So here we are. The House is leaving today. The Senate is leaving either today or tomorrow or the next day, and there are 10 days left on the clock to provide economic certainty for 16 million men and women whose livelihoods come from agriculture. Many of these men and women watched as their crops withered under the hot summer Sun this year, as days and weeks went by without a drop of rain in the worst drought in 50 years. Yet House Republicans are planning to leave without finishing their work on our farm bill. That is absolutely stunning to me.

The work we did in the Senate passed on a strong bipartisan vote. As I said before, the committee in the House put forward their bill on a strong bipartisan vote. If nothing happens, in 10 days we begin to see a transition over the next few months to what is called permanent law, which goes back to the 1940s.

We had over 90 different groups that came in last week. We had hundreds of farmers from around the country--farmers who got off their tractors, took their time at their own expense to fly in and say: Hey, wait a minute, When there is a job to do, you have to get it done. When the crops are ready to harvest, you don't wait a month. You have to do what you have to do when it needs to be done.

That is exactly where we are right now. They just need to do it. I am confident the chairman and the ranking member, working in a bipartisan way, could do this in 1 day. I really believe they could do this in 1 day. It is not as if there is a lot of other substantive work going on in the House. So 1 day. If they decided today: Okay, we are going to get this done before we leave, they would create a situation so our farmers, who are planning for next year, who have to go in and sit down with their banker, will know how to plan and what tools they have available. These are people who have been hit hard, have been devastated by disasters.

In every single one of the counties in Michigan, 83 out of 83 counties, there has been a disaster declaration. They are looking at us and saying: Thank you for what the Senate did, but why won't the House act? And, frankly, I don't know why the House won't act. But they should, because they are leaving an awful lot of people hanging.

We know the consequences of not acting are that we begin to unravel a set of policies that need to be in place for production agriculture, for conservation, for local food systems, for energy, and for nutrition. We know also if we step up and do what we worked so hard to do in the Senate we will get the added plus of $23 billion in deficit reduction. The only thing that has passed the Senate that has bipartisan deficit reduction is our farm bill.

We know we need to make reforms. That is why we eliminated four different subsidies, moved to a risk-based, market-based system, based on crop insurance providing tools for farmers to make sure they can make their own planning decisions, not plant for government programs, but make their own planning decisions and then have tools to support them and to manage the risks that come. We certainly know now, because we have seen this year, what kind of devastating risks may come for our farmers and ranchers across the country.

I have gone through so many times what is in our farm bill that I will not do that now, except to say we have more reform--in fact, the Wall Street Journal said there is more reform in this farm bill than any in decades. We are proud of that. We have more in deficit reduction than in anything else we have passed. We have policies for the future. We have listened to farmers who said crop insurance is the most important thing for them in being able to manage their risk. We have focused on local food systems, providing schools with the ability to purchase locally and support their local farmers. There are energy opportunities for the future and bio-based manufacturing, where we truly can make things and grow things and grow the economy and grow the middle class of this country. There is rural development, where millions of Americans live--for small towns, such as Clare, where I grew up--with the ability to fund infrastructure--water, sewer, Internet--and have a business loan financed, and all those things that go into rural development. We provide for telemedicine to create a quality of life and health for seniors and families.

All those things are involved in what we call the farm bill. All of those things were passed in the Senate. We did what I believe the American public wants us to do, and I certainly know people in Michigan want us to do--to make tough decisions, to evaluate what works and what doesn't work and to cut out the duplication. We eliminated over 100 different programs and authorizations and we streamlined. That is what folks want us to do, and we did it. Now it is time for the House to do their job.

The reality is, even though there are 10 days until the end of the month, the Speaker said they are going home with no action. So the real number is zero. We are out of time for farmers and ranchers and their families, and, frankly, for all of us. If we are fortunate enough to have lunch or breakfast today, we ought to care about the farm bill and the people who provide us with the safest, most affordable, and abundant food in the world. That is what we do in this bill. We are proud of it. And the House of Representatives should be ashamed of themselves for leaving town without supporting rural America.

Madam President, I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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