Like the sands of time, so go the hopes for a 2012 Farm Bill.
But Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, remains optimistic. Stabenow addressed media Tuesday during a press conference regarding the status of the farm bill, explaining that though it has been a long road, she is confident a bill can be passed.
"If I had a dollar for every person who told me we couldn't get [the Senate Farm Bill] out of committee or on the floor, I would be a wealthy person," Stabenow said. "I know that we can do this. We have done it before, and we can do it again."
Stabenow said her plan all along was to avoid running short on time by passing the Senate bill in June, and allowing the House a full month to discuss and the first few days of August to negotiate together. But, now that it is September, Stabenow says there's still a way.
The Congresswoman explained that if the House could pass a farm bill, she didn't think conferencing the bill would take too long. Her timeline indicated that if a House bill is passed, conference could take place in October and a final vote may come in November.
"When you look at the two bills, there are minor differences. There's no doubt in my mind that we can come together and negotiate the differences in good faith," Stabenow said. "But I have to have something to conference."
As for worries about passing a bill during a lame duck session, Stabenow expressed confidence that there was enough time this fall and she was sticking to her timeline goals.
Stabenow also spoke on the floor of the Senate Monday, addressing her fellow Congress members. Next to her, a sign with red numbers told Senate members that there were 20 days until the Farm Bill expires.
"Despite our best efforts," Stabenow said, "we find ourselves in a position where our only opportunity is for the House to take up a bill that was passed by their committee and get this done. I have never seen a situation where a farm bill comes out of committee on a bipartisan basis and then the House won't take it up."
On Friday, the American Farm Bureau Federation urged Congress to table the proposed disaster relief bill in favor of a full farm bill. Thirteen other farm groups joined them in their request.
Stabenow agreed with the sentiments of the groups, and said the disaster legislation does nothing for many farmers, while the Farm Bill does. She said it was important to strengthen and expand crop insurance and improve dairy support. She called the bill "inadequate."
"This is day 20," Stabenow said on Monday. "We're going to count it down every day, because we have got to get this done in the House of Representatives."
House floor time for the Farm Bill has not been scheduled for the week of Sept. 10.