November 19, 2010
Today, November 19, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) announced that she will be taking the helm of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, following Sen. Kent Conrad’s (D-ND) decision to remain at the head of the Senate Budget Committee.
“Agriculture is critical to Michigan’s economy,” Senator Stabenow said in a statement this morning. “I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, as we begin writing a new farm bill that once again recognizes the importance of America’s agricultural economy and rural communities.”
Senator Stabenow, who represents the second-most diverse agricultural economy in the country – behind only California – has been a vocal proponent of specialty crops and biofuels. As chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, she will oversee the development of the next Farm Bill, currently scheduled for reauthorization in 2012.
While Stabenow is expected to use her influence to strengthen provisions for fruit and vegetable growers, it remains to be seen whether or not she seek limits on Farm Bill commodity programs; in 2007, she voted against capping commodity subsidy payments to married couples. The chair of the House Agriculture Committee in the next Congress, Representative Frank Lucas (R-OK), is a strong supporter of commodity subsidies, including direct payments.
Stabenow will be the first Senate Agriculture Committee chair from Michigan in over a century, and the first chair from a non-traditional commodity state since Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) chaired the committee in the early 1990s. NSAC hopes that under her leadership, the 2012 Farm Bill will expand and develop programs that support small and mid-size family farms, protect natural resources, promote healthy rural communities, and ensure access to healthy, nutritious foods.