Farm Bill Should Build on Supercommittee Plan, Stabenow Says

U.S. lawmakers charged with writing a farm bill in 2012 should build upon a plan drafted for the failed congressional supercommittee, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow said.

Subsidies based on crop insurance and safeguards against price drops can serve as the foundation of a bill that may be crafted by April, Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan, said today in response to audience questions after a speech at a farm conference in Washington.

“We should not start from zero,” Stabenow said. “We’re going to continue forward using the foundation of the ideas we developed.”

The leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees had planned to recommend ending about $5 billion in annual payments to farmers made regardless of crop prices as part of a congressional plan to reduce federal spending. The subsidy would have been replaced partly with insurance against some revenue losses.

With other cuts, savings over 10 years would total $23 billion, according to lawmakers. When the supercommittee failed to agree on the larger deficit proposal, the farm initiative was shelved.

Earlier today, the ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Pat Roberts of Kansas, said the plan prepared for the supercommittee should be scrapped so lawmakers can start over with “an open process.”

The farm bill that’s planned for 2012 would govern agricultural policies, including subsidies and conservation and nutrition programs. The legislation is renewed roughly every five years.

Today’s conference was organized by Farm Journal magazine and funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

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