What about the American Enterprise Institute study that says the proposed Senate farm bill could cost more than current programs?

“The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) looked over a 10-year period,” said Stabenow. “When they look at the policies (in the Senate bill), it shows we save $15 billion.

“Two things have been reported in the last week. One is a specific analysis of the ARC program. One is a more general analysis of what happens under a five-year Olympic average during price declines. There’s been a lot of concern that there’s no price protection in a price decline.

“I’m looking right at a chart that shows in 1990s, when there was the dip, the five-year Olympic price average would not have dipped as much. In fact, it would have maintained and more gently gone down rather than send farmers off a cliff.

“Over time, the Olympic average, over time, actually does better for the South than other areas in terms of rice. The ARC program is about the same.”

Stabenow insisted the farm bill is also a jobs bill. “We talk about a lot of about jobs bills but I don’t know of too many that affect as many as the farm bill. Sixteen million Americans are, in some way, dependent on agriculture.

“Agriculture has really been a bright spot in our economy and the underpinning of our economic recovery. That’s why we want to move forward as quickly as possible.”

U.S. agriculture, said Stabenow, is “one of the only sectors of the economy with a trade surplus totaling $42.5 billion in 2011. That’s the highest annual surplus on record. Farmers exported $136 billion worth of goods last year – a 270 percent increase over the last 10 years. … For every $1 billion in agricultural exports, we actually create about 8,400 American jobs.”

As for other reforms in the bill, “we tightened payment limits – in fact, cut them in half from the last farm bill.

“We closed the ‘manager’s loophole’ so only farmers can receive farm payments, not someone sitting in a city office somewhere who’s never set foot on a farm. (Such people) may be gaming the system by calling themselves a farm manager. (Under the new bill), managers have to be on the farm, farming.”