U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow was next in line to receive the Senate Agriculture Committee Chairmanship, and her colleagues gave her the nod November 19 to take over the crucial position likely to be part of the writing of the next farm bill.
Stabenow gave her first major speech January 11 as the new chairwoman at the Michigan Agri-Business Association’s annual Winter Conference. In her talks she states that she plans to hold hearings yet this year on shaping the next farm bill. "I've already heard requests that programs be made simpler and easier to understand. There have also been a lot of changes to the crop insurance program that we will want to evaluate," she told attendees.
In her speech she adds, "I am fully committed to a strong safety net. There is no question that we have serious budget pressures, and so we will need to find creative solutions to help our growers manage risk. The safety net might look a little different than it does now, but we can't have family businesses going under because of a few days of bad weather."
During the last farm bill she authored the Specialty Crops title, the first ever fruit and vegetable title included. Her push for additional funding beyond traditional crops could grow in the next debate, especially as she will be the head.
This committee is top-heavy with former chairmen (Sens. Tom Harkin, Patrick Leahy, Dick Lugar and Thad Cochran), one former House Agriculture Committee chairman (Pat Roberts who also has been named the new ranking member), and one former USDA secretary (Mike Johanns). Stabenow will lead the way, but she will have plenty of others around her to guide her in the years ahead.