Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow addressed USDA's Outlook Forum Thursday. She told those gathered the next Farm Bill will really be a Jobs Bill. It's not like the first Farm Bill written in 1933, when the country was in the grip of the Great Depression.
"Today thankfully our challenges are different," Stabenow said. "Agriculture looks different - our farmers are using GPS and you can monitor your irrigation systems over the Internet. Commodity prices are at a record high. Today there are 5 billion more mouths to feed than there were in 1933 - many of them depending on American agriculture."
Stabenow said we need to make the best use of our limited dollars, and make sure we're using them on programs and policies that work for production agriculture today, focusing on principles, not programs. One of the first principles to be addressed is creating the most effective safety net and the best tools for managing risk.
"We want to look at what's working and what's not working, because we cannot afford to operate and manage many different programs that have questionable effectiveness," Stabenow said. "We also need to continue developing markets overseas. And a focus on research and innovation is another critical principle for us to consider."
Stabenow said we must also consider conserving and protecting our land and water. In the short term, we need to sit down with the USDA and the EPA and address the concerns our growers and ranchers have with pending environmental regulations. The Senate Ag Committee Chair also noted that American agriculture is a partner in the effort for energy independence. There are tremendous opportunities in bioenergy. Finally Stabenow said another important principle is our commitment to invest in rural communities and the next generation.