Stabenow, Boozman express determination to pass farm bill at hearing
Despite speculation that the politics of the House may make it difficult or impossible to pass a farm bill this year, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, today expressed their determination to pass the bill.
In an opening statement at the committee’s first hearing of the year, Stabenow said she is “very concerned that the demands being made by many in the new House Majority for mandatory budget cuts will result in cuts to all farm bill programs,” but after the hearing she told reporters that she, the committee and the nation’s farmers want a farm bill passed this year.
“Everybody wants it done,” Stabenow said. She also told reporters that the money passed for agricultural conservation in the Inflation Reduction Act is for voluntary conservation programs that already have waiting lists. Some Republicans have claimed the money will go for questionable climate change-related efforts, but Stabenow said she is “not in any way interested in rolling back what farmers want on conservation.” Of carbon, she said, farmers want to keep it in the soil while others want it out of the atmosphere.
Boozman noted that Stabenow’s announcement she will retire at the end of this Congress “surprised us all,” but that “I have no doubt that over the next two years, the chairwoman will continue to pursue her goals as determined as ever, and I know that determination will be key to passing the next farm bill, which brings us to today’s hearing.”
The hearing focused on trade and horticulture, with witnesses Agriculture Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis Taylor, Agriculture Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt and Sarah Charles, an assistant to the administrator for the Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development.
In opening testimony, Taylor discussed trade promotion programs and international food aid while Moffitt discussed the many marketing and regulatory programs within her mission area.
Charles said USAID’s cost of providing international humanitarian assistance is rising and noted that Congress could give USAID more flexibility in administering the Food for Peace Act.
The senators asked questions of particular interest to their constituents. Several senators told Taylor the United States should pursue a case through the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement on trade against Mexico’s objections to the exportation of genetically modified corn to Mexico. They also urged Taylor to continue the Biden administration’s position that science shows genetically modified corn is safe for feed and food.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., pressed Taylor to continue managing the sugar program within the current stocks-to-use ratio in a range of 13.5% to 15.5% and not bow to pressure to allow more imports.