Farm Bill Negotiators Resume Talks
11 Nov, 2013
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow signaled Tuesday that face-to-face talks among the top four farm bill negotiators will resume this week, and she is upbeat enough to hope for a deal by Thanksgiving.
“I hope so. It’s doable,” the Michigan Democrat said.
“I feel confident the four of us can come together,” Stabenow said, speaking of herself, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.).
While the House remains on recess through Veterans Day next Monday, Peterson’s office confirmed that he was flying back to Washington Tuesday afternoon. Lucas’s office had no comment on his travel, but he also is expected to return. And Stabenow told POLITICO that all four could meet as early as Wednesday.
“The savings of the farm bill will certainly be part of the solution to the budget,” said Stabenow, who is also part of those House-Senate negotiations. But she and Lucas have both said repeatedly that the text of any farm bill will be theirs to write.
“The issue is who writes the farm bill,” Stabenow said. “We’ll write the farm bill.”
For all her optimism, the chairwoman gave little ground herself on the contentious issue of food stamp savings.
The Senate farm bill proposes about $4 billion in 10-year savings, compared with the $39 billion in reductions assumed in the revised nutrition title approved by the House in September. It’s a huge gap, but Stabenow insisted that negotiators can’t ignore previously enacted food stamp cuts that went into effect last Friday.
Those reductions will reduce spending by as much as $11 billion over the period used by the Congressional Budget Office to score the farm bill. Typically, these are not counted since the savings result from prior actions by Congress. But Stabenow said they cannot be ignored.
“I am counting them,” she told POLITICO. “That’s real and if [the House’s] objective is to cut help for people, that started last Friday. I do count that. In fairness, that needs to be counted.”
In the same vein, she showed no interest in a compromise narrowing the range of income and asset tests now used by states in judging eligibility for food stamps.
“At this point, what I’m interested in doing is focusing on fraud and abuse — ways to tighten up the system to make it more accountable,” she said. “I’m not interested in taking food away from folks who have had an economic disaster, just as I’m not interested in cutting crop insurance for farmers who have had economic disasters.”
Source: Indiana Farm Bureau