Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Sen. Thad Cochran, the Committee's Ranking Member, worked together to secure a strong bipartisan 15-5 vote in Committee for the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 (a.k.a. the new Farm Bill). The bill is now being considered by the full Senate. The 2013 Farm Bill cuts spending by $24 billion while strengthening initiatives that help Michigan farmers and small business owners create agriculture jobs. Statements from Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle follow.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV): "Democrats and Republicans disagree on many things. So it's really remarkable and encouraging to see how well Senators Stabenow and Senator Cochran - the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee - worked together to bring the agriculture jobs bill to the floor. Their work has been exemplary - some would say old-fashioned - the way things used to be."
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA): "Thank you Madam Chair, and first of all let me commend you and the ranking member on working hard once again to produce what we all know from firsthand experience is a very difficult bill to produce. The process is always difficult to do, trying to match up all regions and all crops, so I want to commend you....The biggest issue facing our country now is the growing debt and deficit, and I commend this committee for doing the needed work to find the needed savings...That is remarkable madam Chair that you have been able to craft a bill with that kind of number in there under the conditions we are operating in."
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN): "It's been 327 days since the Senate passed the last Farm Bill in June of 2012. Since that time farmers, ranchers, rural communities in America have been through a lot. In 2012 we had the worst drought since 1956, costing the country billions of dollars.... I'm so pleased with the work this committee has done, the bipartisan work this committee has done, and I'm also pleased we found a way to do this while still reducing the debt. We've eliminated direct payments and further focused farm programs on our family farmers and I urge this committee to stick with its $23 billion target to ensure we have the strongest bill possible."
Sen. John Boozman (R-AK): "We appreciate you having the markup today and for all your hard work in bringing forward this bipartisan and reform oriented legislation. Like all of the other members of this committee I recognize that our producers need a strong five year farm bill that ensures our nation will have the world's safest, most affordable and most reliable food supply and fiber. We know that the only way to accomplish this is for this committee to report a bipartisan bill that provides a safety net for all crops and regions, invests in the future of rural America, preserves the safety net for the most vulnerable members of our communities, and finally a bill that includes significant reforms and contributes to reducing our federal deficit."
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA): "I thank you Madam Chair for your great leadership of this committee. I always marvel at the fact that our Chair has the unique distinction of having served on the Agriculture Committee in the state legislature, the US House and the US Senate. I don't know that anyone else has ever had that kind of a career. And I thank you for all of your diligence in getting this bill through when there's some really tremendous and terrible hardships in the budget.... hopefully we can get this over the finish line now."
Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE): "I certainly know that creating a Farm bill is never easy and there's a lot of different philosophies about farm policies and of course we come from lots of different parts of the country with different crops.... The improvements [in this bill] reduce costs as well as make the programs more farmer friendly. This bill also helps farmers produce more food on less land, hope to do more in that area. And includes new avenues to ensure that important work continues despite a tight federal budget."
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT): "I think I can speak for all members of the committee in expressing my appreciation for putting this together. It's been a long road. It's also very important that we have a five year bill. Many of us believe these short term extensions just don't make sense and I thank you for a five year bill. Five is a very important number - one in 5 Montana jobs is related to agriculture, it's our number one industry... I must say too, that the bill saves taxpayers a lot of money. With debt reduction that too is a big feather in your cap so there are a lot of reasons why this is good legislation and again I thank you very much for it."
Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND): "Thank you to both you and the ranking member for getting us into this committee with this markup. I know farmers and ranchers across this great country appreciate it very much as well. I also appreciate the spirit in which you approached this Farm Bill, building on the work from the bill last session and really working to add some things that I hope can ensure that we go to the floor untied with this bill."
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND): "I wanted to tell you how grateful I am for your leadership and the leadership of the ranking member to bring this bill... the Farm Bill has never been a partisan bill... And so hopefully we'll be able to do this, we'll be able to achieve the compromise that we need to move this forward. But we're extremely hopeful that the House will also do this, and just for once if we can set a goal of getting this done before the expiration of the extension, that would be an amazing feat and one I think we would talk about for a lot years as an example of what we can do."
Sen. Mo Cowan (D-MA): "I speak not just for the farmers that till the soil and cultivate the land but for those who cultivate the sea. I also want to applaud you and others for the hard fought agreement on conservation compliance as represented in the mark up. I think this a good compromise and everyone will benefit... I want to thank you Madam Chair for doing your best to protect the SNAP benefits in this bill and others. I know it's not been easy, there's more work to be done...I look forward to the conversation today and the amendment process and taking a bipartisan bill to the floor."