The broad parameters agreed to last fall “are maintained” in the Senate farm bill, said Stabenow. While not enamored with the Senate bill, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, House Agriculture Committee ranking member, has said any problems – presumably including those that still remain for rice and peanuts -- can be fixed during conference.

An amendment being prepped last week from Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss and South Dakota Sen. John Thune would have allowed rice and peanut producers target price supports. After speaking with Stabenow, the senators withdrew the amendment believing that the issues for the crops will be best addressed in conference.

Back to the Senate amendments, Chambliss has also proposed attaching conservation compliance to crop insurance. There has been opposition to that idea from farm groups and the crop insurance industry. Stabenow’s reaction?

“First of all, we’ve fought very hard in the farm bill to strengthen … conservation. We have more of a focus on conservation than any farm bill in the past.”

Further, “the new risk management programs are all tied to conservation compliance. Anything in the Commodity Title – to get a marketing loan, if you’re under the new ARC program -- … is tied to conservation compliance.

“Then, we made a major step forward with the Sod Saver Program to protect native grasslands. … If you’re going into native grasslands, prairielands, breaking them up, there’s a penalty against your crop insurance.”

However, “we did not take the step totally on crop insurance. Primarily, that’s because crop insurance is different kind of entity. It is a private insurance program that people purchase into. It’s different than when folks are receiving dollars under the Commodity Title. At this point, crop insurance is fundamentally different and we didn’t make that total link.”

The “process of change” would mean a deficit reduction “net over $15 billion in the Commodity Title.”

Stabenow does not “anticipate” the Chambliss amendment will pass.

The chairwoman was also queried on two other premium support/crop insurance-related amendments up for votes – one from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (which would reduce federal premium support by 15 percent), another from Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin/Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn (which would limit the crop insurance premium subsidy provided to farmers with an adjusted gross income greater than $750,000).

“On the overall question around crop insurance limits, (South Dakota) Sen. John Thune has a side-by-side amendment with Durbin/Coburn,” said Stabenow. “They’re trying to work out common language, to come together where we might accept the amendment…

“My concern, as we move to a risk-based system and look at any of the amendments that deal with crop insurance, is that we don’t undermine the reforms we’ve made. We’re eliminating four direct subsidies … that aren’t tied to risk management. We’re moving to crop insurance and we want to support and incentivize farmers to purchase crop insurance.

“The reason it’s a partnership, where the federal government provides a discount, is to be able to support (farmers) so they’ll have skin in the game, to put their own money up. Whenever we look at … limits on that, my worry is we’ll shift the cost to smaller farms.”

Perhaps, Stabenow suggested, it would be best to deal with such limits in the next farm bill. “We don’t have enough information yet. … I am concerned about looking at these limits and what it does to small and medium-sized farms.”