Roberts signals no new money for farm bill, Stabenow notes savings
At a Senate Agriculture Committee field hearing on the next farm bill in Frankenmuth, Mich., on May 13, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., signaled that he believes there will not be more money for the next farm bill.
After listening to 16 witnesses invited by Senate Agriculture ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Roberts said, “The reality is we are going to have to do more with less.”
For the second time at the hearing, Roberts said that the federal debt totals $19 trillion and added, “We can’t go on like this.”
In an opening statement, Stabenow noted that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the 2014 farm bill will save $80 billion more than expected and that 500 groups have said there should be no additional cuts.
During a news conference following the hearing, Roberts said that each of the witnesses who came to Michigan State University’s Saginaw Valley Research and Extension Center had provided “valuable insights.”
“We were here to do one thing, listen,” Roberts said.
Farm groups have said there should be additional resources for the next farm bill and the House Agriculture Committee has said there should be “budget flexibility” to develop the next bill.
Then Roberts said, “Times are tough in farm country, I don’t know how many times we are going to have to say that to get the attention of the national media. The credit situation is tightening, prices continue to be low.”
He also noted that Kansas has been going through “a rough patch” due to “Mother Nature” — a reference to the recent wildfires and a storm that appears to have devastated the winter wheat crop.
“Overregulation is a real problem,” said Roberts, who had reacted strongly when a farmer said that the Agriculture Department expects him to record wildlife that cross his property. Overregulation is a problem at USDA and throughout the federal government, Roberts said.
The hearing was running short on time because Roberts had to catch a plane, and he asked the second panel of witnesses for their ideas about flexibilities and efficiencies.
Members of the panel suggested allowing haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program land, access for additional groups to the Connect America fund, combining local, regional and urban agriculture programs and more cooperation among providers of food aid to low-income people might all make the farm bill more efficient.