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Stabenow and others had pushed for months to include the farm programs in a broad package aimed at averting the fiscal cliff, but the agreement ultimately reached between the White House and McConnell took a different form.
“I vehemently oppose what he did on agriculture, but I think he also does deserve credit for ... being willing to reach out and work with the White House,” Stabenow said about McConnell.
With spending barely addressed in the deal, Republicans say that debate will come in conjunction with the upcoming fight over increasing the federal debt limit. Asked if there would be a chance to use a new farm package as part of spending reductions to accompany that measure, Stabenow said she thought it would be a good idea. However, the position taken by the House may make that difficult.
“Common sense would say that the Congress and the White House should jump at the bipartisan effort we put together that has a minimum of $24 billion in savings — in cuts,” Stabenow said. “It wasn’t just slash and burn. We looked at every page. We eliminated 100 different programs that either don’t make sense anymore or don’t work or are duplication.”
Stabenow cautioned against eliminating direct payments outside the context of a broader farm bill because budget scoring rules might prevent reallocating some of those funds to other farm and nutrition programs.
“Because we’ve had more payout in crop insurance, they’re going to be reassessing more spending there which will relate then to what we can do in other areas. So, there’s going to be some changes that relate to how much is available in total,” Stabenow said. “If you then eliminate a large investment like direct payments without doing it in the context of the whole farm bill, so that you’re being able to reinvest some dollars in a way that makes sense that supports farmers, it’s not best for agriculture.”