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Stabenow to push farm bill after election

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said Thursday that she will push for completing the 2012 farm bill in the lame duck session of Congress that takes place after the November election this year. She said that she opposed extending the current 2008 farm bill because it would not provide the same disaster relief for livestock and fruit producers as a new farm bill.

"I really am shocked that there hasn't been action this month before the September 30 deadline, but I'm absolutely committed to doing everything possible  on behalf of our farmers and ranchers to complete the farm bill in November or December," she said.

When asked if she could do any work on the farm bill while Congress is on break this month and next, Stabenow said, "I'm not certain."

Stabenow said she is still confident that the House could pass its own farm bill, if the Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) would work to build a bipartisan coalition. If he insists on having support from all members of his own party, "then frankly there is a problem," she said. She said that not all Democrats would vote for the House farm bill, either, but she believes there are enough members of both parties for a majority.

It was reported elsewhere Thursday that Boehner confirmed that there would be no vote on the farm bill until after the election. 

Stabenow said that the staffs of both House and Senate ag committees have been working on ways to resolve differences in the commodity title of the bill already passed by the Senate and the one approved by the House Agriculture Committee. And she's been talking informally with members of Congress. But for her to work more directly with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) in "preconferencing" before the bill is passed in the House, they would need Boehner's support. A conference committee representing the ag committee members from both chambers of Congress would have to put the two bills together after the House passes its own farm bill, if the bill is approved. The final bill then would need approval again in both the House and Senate. 

When asked about details on a possible extension of the current farm bill, Stabenow said, "Right now I'm really not putting together a plan B. It's plan A. Get the farm bill done." 

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