Senate Agriculture Committee chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) said the Senate is ready to go to conference with the House on a farm bill, however House leadership has not sent anything over yet, she said in a call Monday with reporters.
Stabenow said she was surprised that after the House passed its farm-only farm bill last week that House leadership did not send over the bill. She said the Senate even left the floor open later on Thursday in anticipation that it would. She called on House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) "to send us what was passed Thursday so we can go to conference."
She added she has spoken with her counterparts on the House side including a "good discussion" with House Agriculture Committee chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) and with ranking member Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) who is also anxious to get to conference.
Stabenow stressed time is of the essence and said the farm bill expires in 6 legislative weeks. Including July 15, Congress will be working only 24 more days. She would like to see the process begin to move this week to allow for enough time to put a final agreement together.
"The longer the House waits before sending something to us, the less time we have before the current extension runs out," Stabenow said, adding she won't support an extension that once again leaves out important pieces of reform included in the bills.
Leading up and during discussion of the House farm-only farm bill vote last week, Lucas had promised that he would deal with the nutrition title separately since it had proven more difficult to reach consensus. The latest reports indicate a nutrition-only bill may come to the House floor in the next week or two although the House schedule did not include it this week.
Stabenow questioned why if the House was going to pass a partisan farm bill with just Republican support, why it didn't also attach that draconian nutrition cuts many Republicans are also seeking.
She did express confidence that conferees could come together to produce a bipartisan bill that would be bipartisan in both the House and Senate. Stabenow added she will be negotiating with members who understand agriculture and rural America and is "not going to negotiate with extreme measures."
The House version also included a provision that would make the 2013 commodity title new permanent law, which she said poses questions such as why that's good for agriculture in the long-term and added there is great concern this would take away the pressure to make sure a comprehensive farm bill is updated every five years.
The permanent law provision is a "very serious issue" Stabenow knows from talking to agricultural groups and it "ranks very high, if not the top concern, they have in what was passed Thursday."