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June 06, 2012

Farm bill debate looms

If you’re a C-SPAN junkie, get ready to see a lot of Sens. Pat Roberts and Debbie Stabenow over the next two weeks.

The Senate is likely to start debating the agriculture bill today and the Kansas Republican, as ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, will play an important role in trying to shepherd it through. Stabenow, the committee chairman from Michigan, will be its leading advocate.

The pair needs the support of 60 senators to begin debate. They’ve corralled the backing of at least 45 from both parties. The current farm bill expires in September. The House is expected to take up its version later this month.

One of the big issues of contention in the Senate will be the fact that the legislation would ends direct payments to farmers, even if they don’t put seed in the ground. Roberts and Stabenow have made a show of working together successfully to send a bipartisan farm bill out of committee that became an exercise in trying to sidestep regional and ideological land mines. Several still remain.

The south, for instance, opposes rice and peanut subsidies. The northeast is worried about cuts in food stamps, but conservatives want even more.

Roberts Spokeswoman Sarah Little said that a compromise bill made it through the committee was an accomplishment, given the highly-charged political atmosphere on Capitol Hill.

“Even in a campaign year, a bipartisan bill that cuts $23.6 billion can be voted out of committee and possibly through the Senate,” she said.


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"Planet Washington" covers politics and government. It is written by journalists in McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

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