LANSING, Mich. (AP) — U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow says hearings on the nation's next Farm Bill could begin by February or March.

The Democratic senator from Michigan says Tuesday the biggest challenge in drafting the new bill will be the government's overall budget deficits.

The current Farm Bill expires in 2012. The bill typically covers a five-year period.

Stabenow made her comments to reporters after speaking at a Michigan Agri-Business Association conference in Lansing.

Stabenow said she considers the Farm Bill to be a jobs bill, particularly in Michigan, where one of every four jobs is related to agriculture.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack strongly hinted earlier this week that large budget deficits will require spending cuts.

The Farm Bill sets the federal government's financial support for the agriculture sector.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.