Stabenow, Lucas Defend Decision to Omit COOL Repeal from 2014 Farm BillTue, 28 Jan 2014 16:12:53 CST
While the 2014 Farm Bill Conference Report brought together many disparate issues and groups, there was one area that the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and other meat groups felt was inadequately addressed: COOL and GIPSA. NCBA's Colin Woodall was incensed by the slight and went so far as to say it showed "that we don't have as many friends on Capitol Hill as we expected, especially in Debbie Stabenow, the chairlady of the Senate Ag Committee."
At a news conference today, Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays asked Stabenow about her perception of the issue and those groups that feel she failed to honor her word to fix COOL. (You can listen to the full conversation, including comments by Frank Lucas, by clicking on the LISTEN BAR below.)
"I have to say I was surprised after these same groups supported the Senate bill in 2012 that did not address the issues of COOL and GIPSA," Stabenow said. "Those are not in the farm bill's jurisdiction. They supported our bill. They didn't raise it at the time. They supported our bill the next year in 2013. And it wasn't in the House bill either, but we did support the House language which was to study this issue and that's what we were able to do."
Stabenow defended herself saying that the Senate and House conferees supported the main livestock groups in the form of permanent disaster assistance "which was the number one priority for all of these groups up until a couple of weeks ago- All of us worked together with what we knew we could achieve and they came in wanting to repeal COOL. There was no way-the chairman and I assessed this-the votes were not there in either body to do that. And, so, we moved forward to achieve what we could together and I'm very disappointed that they are not choosing to understand what a huge win this bill is for livestock."
Jumping to Stabenow's defense, Frank Lucas explained why he also thought it was necessary to sidestep the COOL issue at this juncture.
"I think the thing we need to bear in mind is this has been a hugely controversial set of subjects for years and years and years. It's the kind of thing that good people of good opinion have intense differences of perspective. The language, as the chairwoman quite clearly stated, that was in the bill dealt with the study, not with repeal. The Senate didn't have any language, basically, to start with. To be asked to go and advance past that towards a total repeal when there wasn't repeal language on either side, just was extremely difficult. This is one of those things where this fight has to be fought starting at the very lowest level-subcommittee, full committee, all the way through. And the groundwork had not necessarily been laid for that.
"Ultimately, the chairwoman and myself and the ranking members had to make a decision: Do we want a farm bill or do we want to take an issue that could potentially blow the whole process sky high?
"Ultimately, from my perspective, I thought there were enough good things in this farm bill, it was a good-enough farm bill, it was a reform farm bill, it had a strong enough commitment that we had to move forward."
Both Lucas and Stabenow said the COOL issue is not dead simply because it is not in the farm bill. Stabenow said the outcome of the WTO case challenging COOL could ultimately determine whether it needs to be substantially changed or repealed at a later date.
Woodall said that the NCBA and other groups would work to defeat the 2014 farm bill in both Houses, but most strenuously in the Senate as a personal rebuke to Stabenow.
"I think our preference would be to take this farm bill down in the Senate, just to show the lack of leadership by Senator Stabenow on this subject."
Click here to read more from Colin Woodall and to listen to his conversation on the topic with Ron Hays.
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