Stabenow to chair Senate Ag Committee
Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow will chair the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry when the 112th Congress convenes in January. She will lead during the formation of the new Farm Bill, scheduled for enactment in 2012.
Her election was hailed by organizations representing specialty crops growers, who credit her with writing the specialty crops subtitle in the 2008 Farm Bill, the first time for such a section.
The U.S. Apple Association, which is chaired by Michigan apple leader Julia Baehre Rothwell, had earlier announced support for her, as had the Michigan Apple Association.
“American apple growers are thrilled to have Senator Debbie Stabenow as the new chair of this very important Congressional committee,” Rothwell said in a statement. “She is an outstanding leader and has demonstrated absolute dedication to family farming and the complex nature of agriculture.
“Senator Stabenow’s ability to fight for farmers with genuine bipartisan support was critical to the passage of the historic 2008 Farm Bill, which was the first to recognize specialty crops, including apples. Her expertise and devotion will be even more essential as work begins on the next Farm Bill and other important legislation in areas such as food safety and child nutrition.”
USApple, is a founding member of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, which lobbied with Stabenow to get the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, Fruit and Vegetable Program, the Market Access Program, and other initiatives into the 2008 Farm Bill.
Stabenow, the fourth ranking Democratic member of the committee, took the helm after more senior senators opted to chair other committees. The current ag committee chair, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, lost to her Republican opponent in the November 2 election.
Stabenow, who also was the Senate author of the 2009 Cash for Clunkers program in support of the ailing automobile industry, served on agriculture committees when she was in the Michigan legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives before her election to the U.S. Senate in 2000.
Phillip Korson II, president of the Michigan-based Cherry Marketing Institute, said in a statement, “Senator Stabenow and her staff worked very hard on the 2008 farm bill to make sure there were new provisions that are specific to specialty crop farmers in Michigan and throughout the United States. She has been a champion for food safety programs, conservation, energy, and research. We need an elected official like Senator Stabenow who is interested in Michigan agriculture, and working to grow and expand the economic engine in the state that creates jobs and keeps our food supply safe.”
Jeffrey Armstrong, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University, said:
“Senator Debbie Stabenow has been an ardent and steadfast advocate for Michigan agriculture. Her vision for the future of agriculture was evident in her commitment to securing new funding for specialty crop research in the last Farm Bill, funding that has and will continue to directly benefit not only Michigan producers but farmers across America. She is a champion for leveraging investments in research and outreach to expand the ag economic impact and improve the quality of life for all Americans.”
Stabenow was born in Gladwin, Michigan, and grew up in the nearby town of Clare. She attended Michigan State University, where she received her bachelor's (1972) and master’s (1975) degrees. She worked in the public schools before running for public office.
She was elected to the Ingham County Board of Commissioners in 1974 and was the youngest person and first woman to chair the board (1977-78). She was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives where she served for 12 years (1979-90) and rose in leadership, becoming the first woman to preside over the House. She served in the state Senate for four years (1991-94). She was elected to Congress in 1996 and won election to the U.S. Senate four years later.
Senator Stabenow’s home is in Lansing, Michigan. She has two grown children, Todd and Michelle.