Having again failed to schedule floor time for a new farm bill despite expiration of current law on Sept. 30, House leadership is unlikely to be moved to action by a fellow lawmaker’s scathing critique. But that didn’t stop Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, from making such a harsh assessment during a Tuesday press call.

“We need to get (a new farm bill) done,” said Stabenow. “If we aren’t able to get this done we’re looking at a Depression-era farm policy that’s obviously extremely outdated: antiquated subsidies, price controls and so on, and market confusion that (would) come from that.”

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The current impasse, she said, “is absolutely unacceptable. We passed a bipartisan (farm) bill in the Senate in June. The House Agriculture Committee passed a bipartisan (farm) bill in July.

“In my time here – this is my fourth farm bill – I’ve never seen a situation where a bipartisan bill has come out of committee and wasn’t taken up on the floor. The House leadership, for whatever reason, has decided they won’t bring this up on the floor.”

While it is true there are only a few legislative days left before the looming deadline, Stabenow said that would be enough if the House would move. She also dismissed calls for an extension of current law.

The House “will pass their continuing resolution this week. My question is: what’s more important to do next than the farm bill? I don’t think they have anything else substantive on their agenda for September.

“In my judgment those who don’t want reform would just as soon kick the can down the road and do some kind of long-term extension. That is something I do not support. … This isn’t about an extension (of current law). We need to pass a farm bill and they have plenty of time to do it.

“I don’t care if there’s eight (legislative) days left. We only need a couple in the House to get this done. I can’t imagine that creating economic certainty for rural America and comprehensive disaster assistance within that farm bill isn’t a priority for the House.”

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Stabenow characterized the House’s disaster package -- which aims to help drought-struck ranchers and was passed just prior to Congress’ August recess – as inadequate.

“At this point, we need a farm bill that includes comprehensive disaster assistance, which we have. Ours is paid for within our farm bill. … (The House’s) disaster bill doesn’t help every farmer who has had a loss. It does nothing for dairy in terms of changing policy. It doesn’t address fruit losses we’ve seen from freezes. It’s not acceptable.”

The Senate farm bill “has more disaster relief. We have long-term certainty in our bill…

“At this time, it doesn’t appear they’re even interested in doing a comprehensive disaster bill. We’re hearing from (agriculture and commodity) groups that they want (disaster assistance) in the context of a farm bill. … It’s very, very clear that where we need to focus is getting a farm bill done as soon as possible.”