One of the reasons Stabenow is so sure a new farm bill is within reach is her continuing interaction with Oklahoma Rep. Frank Lucas, House Agriculture Committee chairman, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, ranking member.  

“Whenever you can sit down and talk about policy, it’s a good thing. You always benefit by doing that. Those discussions were very productive and important to lay the framework. We really know, right now, what the choices are, what the differences are. That’s why I believe we could conference the bill quickly…

“We’re certainly willing to negotiate with our colleagues. I know that’s where (Lucas and Peterson) would like to be right now – sitting with us negotiating a final farm bill. But they need House leadership’s support and action to get it done…

“If the House acts now, I believe we could quickly resolve differences and pass a bill. Even if it’s the last thing they do, we can negotiate over October and quickly pass it when we come back in November. That’s what we need to do.

“And that’s what we’re hearing from all the agricultural groups across the country.”

If the House passes a farm bill just prior to the September 30 deadline, would it be possible to conference the bill in October and have the House and Senate vote on it in November?

“Absolutely,” said Stabenow. “There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re close enough.

“Other than the Commodity Title where there is some policy differences and the Nutrition with the difference in cuts (to funding), the structure of (the House’s) Conservation Title is exactly the same as (the Senate’s). The Specialty Crop Title is very similar (as is) the rest of the bill…

“But I have to have something to conference. We’re stuck at the moment because the House Republican (leaders) have chosen not to do anything on the farm bill and give us the opportunity to complete the process. All we need is a bill from the House and I’m confident we can do the rest.”

What about passing a farm bill during the lame duck session?

“The first choice is to get this done now, before September 30. That’s been my first choice all the way. That’s why we moved quickly in the Senate. We moved quickly when it came out of committee to pass it (by the full Senate) so the House would have plenty of time, would have the entire month of July and the first few days of August to act. (That way) we could negotiate over August.

“I’m going to continue to push relentlessly until we get this done. Period. If it’s September, if it’s October, if it’s November, we’re going to get a farm bill…

“Frankly, what’s the difference between September and November? (The House) has a bill, bipartisan, that came out of committee.”

Stabenow insisted the House could rally votes for the passage of a new farm bill. “I’ve been talking to people in the House. I’m confident the votes are there if they’re willing to do this on a bipartisan vote. So why go through all the uncertainty, the chaos for farmers, the disruptions in the marketplace? Just pass it.”

dbennett@farmpress.com