Congressman Lucas ready to start farm bill process

High Plains Midwest Ag Journal
By: Doug Rich
August 19, 2011

Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) said the biggest challenge facing Congress as they prepare to debate a new farm bill is the number of freshmen on the House Ag Committee and the number of freshmen in the House of Representatives as a whole. Lucas spoke by phone from Washington, D.C., to members of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association during their annual convention held July 28 to 30 in Midwest City, Okla.

This is the third year that Lucas has led the Republican side of the House Ag Committee. This year he is the ranking member of the majority and chairman of the committee.

“That means I am given the challenge of writing the farm bill in a year when not only do I not have any new money to work with, I don’t have the old money to work with,” Lucas said. “And I have a huge number of new members on the committee and in the House.”

There are 26 Republicans and 20 Democrats on the House Ag Committee. Out of the 26 Republicans there are 16 freshmen and out of the 20 Democrats there are seven freshmen. These freshmen have never served on the House Ag Committee or debated a farm bill before.

“That has presented challenge in trying to get ready for the farm bill whether it is next summer or a hurry up process this fall,” Lucas said.

In the House of Representative as whole there are 80 freshmen. Many of these freshmen are very focused Tea Party members who want to make a difference.

The focus recently has been on raising the debt ceiling, but Lucas said the real question is how do we get off this path of ever-increasing deficit spending. The House of Representatives believes the key is to cut spending. The Senate perspective, in general, is that we just need more revenue.

Parts of the 2008 farm bill will begin to expire in July 2012. Lucas said there would be less money available for the farm bill this time around. The question is how much less.

In preparation for the farm bill process a series of oversight hearings have begun to look at all of the issues facing agriculture including spray drift, dust, water quality, and the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration rule. Lucas said the GIPSA rule has the potential to impact every part of the livestock industry. A real peer-reviewed cost benefit analysis is needed before the rule takes effect, according to Lucas.

“As federal spending comes down we will come down with it,” Lucas said. “What I have attempted to tell the House leadership is that agriculture will do its part but it will not do two times or four times its part. Give us the numbers and let the committees decide the best way to use the money that is available.”
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