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Farm bill not moving forward? ‘There’s no timeline,’ says Sen. Stabenow

Date Posted: March 28, 2024
Stabenow On Farm Bill

WASHINGTON — Every farmer wants to know when the next farm bill will pass.

But “there’s no timeline,” U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) told Michigan Farm News this week in Washington, D.C.

It’s this waiting game — coupled with a fractious House and Senate — that worries American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Zippy Duvall, who told Michigan Farm Bureau members Thursday that the sooner a new farm bill passes, the better.

“What’s fearful for me is if we wait, it won’t get done,” he said. “Our farmers need certainty.”

In February, USDA’s Economic Research Service released projections that there will be a 27.1% decrease in net farm income in 2024, doubling concerns for Michigan farmers.

Stabenow, who chairs the Senate Ag Committee and co-authored the previous two farm bills, said the current one will be her last, announcing last January she’d not seek re-election. 

“We're kind of stuck right now on some things that would cost us votes rather than getting us votes,” said Stabenow, noting the 12 titles in the 2023 Farm Bill — from nutrition to conservation — have a strong majority of support.

“I want to make sure we're moving forward, building on the good work of 2018, and being able to do more. There are things in dairy that I want to do to help our dairy farmers. There's more I want to do in crop insurance to help our growers, and a number of other things. We're pushing ahead.”

But how far ahead?

“At this point, I'm just trying to get colleagues to seriously sit down and negotiate,” Stabenow added. “You know, I've been involved in six farm bills; this is the third one I've had. It always involves compromise; it's got to be bipartisan.”

However, AFBF’s Joe Gilson said the $1.5 trillion 2023 Farm Bill price tag scares a lot of Republican legislators who are “sick of overspending.” Democrats, he said, “want to make sure low-income households are taken care of” via Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding.

“You need to encourage discussions between legislators,” said Gilson, director of government affairs for AFBF. “You can’t just draw hard red lines. We need a five-year farm bill safety net so farmers have the safety they need.”

Gilson noted 87 senators voted for the 2018 Farm Bill, making it one of the most bipartisan in history.

“I don’t think they are talking about 87 votes anymore,” he said.

According to Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau President Chad Geoit, “Even if politicians hear it 1,000 times, we can’t assume they know what to do.”

“We are grassroots, and we have to let them know what's important to us,” he told Michigan Farm News, “so that we can speak for the people back home who we are here to represent.”