America’s Farm Bill

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“The work of the Agriculture Committee, including reauthorizing the farm bill, affects every American; ensuring that our farmers and ranchers have the tools they need to produce an abundant and affordable food and fiber supply is as important to our country as national defense.”

– Frank D. Lucas, the first Oklahoman in history to serve as Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee

 
During my service in Washington I have worked hard to be a strong voice for American agriculture. I know how important it is, having experienced firsthand the devastating effects of drought, flood, and freeze on crops and livestock. I appreciate the many challenges my fellow farmers and ranchers endure to make certain that we all have a stable, safe supply of food and fiber.

I’m pleased to report to you that we’ve won a major victory for fiscal conservatism and limited government. President Obama has signed into law the Agricultural Act of 2014, a landmark piece of legislation that reduces the deficit $23 billion, repeals or consolidates almost 100 government programs, and reforms the “food stamp” program for the first time in a generation.

As most of you know I have spent much time and devoted much energy over the past four years to reforming federal agriculture programs. As the first Oklahoman to serve as Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee I embarked upon this process convicted that our state’s conservative, common-sense approach to public policy could bring about needed changes in an area of government that had, in some ways, not been updated since President Clinton was in the White House.

You can read more about the legislation by scrolling down below my signature line, and can even read the law in its entirety here; a few highlights of this new law include:

– Repeals direct payments that went to farmers regardless of whether they actually grew food and fiber.
– Provides relief from duplicative federal regulations to businesses across the nation.
– SNAP (food stamp) reforms that lower the costs of the program due to mandatory spending reductions–literally shrinking the size and cost of the federal government.

Make no mistake: had we not taken the actions we did the abuses and uncontrollable growth in SNAP programs would have continued unchecked; we also would have seen the taxpayers left on the hook for the re-implementation of the New Deal-era “permanent” farm programs that would wreak havoc on the market and dramatically impact the prices of food on the grocery store shelf. While the political realities in Washington limited this effort to finding a consensus, and while I certainly would have liked to enact even more significant changes to these programs, I am very pleased that this bipartisan law was achieved through the open processes and regular order that the voters demanded in the 2010 and 2012 elections. It is a great first step in “walking the walk” of restoring conservative, Constitutional principles to the work we do on your behalf in the nation’s capital.

As always, please stay in touch, and e-mail me any time at frank@frankdlucas.com. I continue to consider myself blessed to represent you in Washington.

Sincerely,
Frank

THE AGRICULTURAL ACT OF 2014

WHAT DOES IT DO?
The law was created by the “farm bill,” the legislation that Congress has acted on about every five years since the Great Depression, and federal agricultural policies hearken back to proposals made by President Washington. The programs the new farm law authorizes are a form of “food supply insurance,” enabling farmers and ranchers to keep providing the American people—and others around the world—with a safe, affordable source of food and fiber. It avoids the taxpayers having to “bail out” production agriculture during times of catastrophic weather events and long-term price declines; instead, the taxpayers provide at a cost of less than .5%–that’s less than half of one percent!–of the entire federal budget a stable, certain safety net for the roughly 250,000 farms that produce 80% of the food we all enjoy.

DO WE REALLY NEED MORE GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS?
The new law abolishes or merges nearly 100 federal programs. For example, the new law repeals the direct payments program that paid out taxpayer dollars regardless of whether the recipient actually farmed. By consolidating programs and eliminating duplication we are able to deliver effective public services while saving the taxpayers billions of dollars. We do not need more government programs. Our way of life and our national security are dependent on being able to adequately feed our population. A “thin green line” of 210,000 full-time U. S. farms produces 80% of what we eat and drink—ensuring that those farms continue to operate is of vital importance to each and every American.

In short, we simply need the federal government to empower farmers, ranchers, and rural Americans to do what they do best—produce the most abundant, most affordable supply of nutritious food and fiber in the history of the world.

DON’T “FARM SUBSIDIES” GO TO BIG AGRIBUSINESSES AND HURT FAMILY FARMS?
No, although this is a persistent myth because more and more Americans do not really understand how production agriculture operates—they are further and further removed from the source of what is on their plate and in their glass. The fact of the matter is that 96% of the 2.2 million farms in this country are family-owned. These families were very much “at the table” and a part of the process during the writing of the new farm law.

The last of the traditional “farm subsidies”—direct payments—are abolished by the new farm law. Secondly, the new law’s safety net programs only offer assistance to farmers and ranchers who suffer significant losses and who actually produce food and fiber for the country to eat, drink, and wear. Finally, the new farm law caps assistance for any farmer, limiting exposure to the taxpayer and ensuring that the program is not abused.

Some have criticized the free market-oriented crop insurance program. This successful private-public partnership costs farmers about $4 billion per year out of their own pockets. Those farmers bear tremendous losses–$13 billion in 2012 alone—before their insurance policy ever activates. Crop insurance companies actually lose money in bad years to protect taxpayers, and the crop insurance program actually makes money for the taxpayers in good years due to underwriting gains.

WHY ARE FOOD STAMPS A PART OF THE “FARM BILL?”
The short answer is that this legislation authorizes every program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). SNAP, or food stamps, is a USDA program.

During the Great Depression the USDA distributed food and commodities to those in need. In 1938 the first Food Stamp Program was created and administered by the USDA. In 1959 the Eisenhower Administration was authorized by Congress to administer food stamps under the authority of the Secretary of Agriculture. President Kennedy’s first Executive Order initiated new pilot food stamp programs in 1961–again, administered by USDA. Finally, the Food Stamp Act of 1964 was signed into law, affirming the program’s place at the Agriculture Department; the 1977 food stamp legislation likewise kept food stamps firmly under the jurisdiction of the USDA.

By passing the new farm law the first major reforms to SNAP since the 1990s have been enacted. New state pilot programs allowing work requirements are going into effect. Exploitative loopholes are being closed and new efforts at curbing fraud and abuse are underway. Recruiting and advertising for food stamps are now prohibited. None of this would have been possible without the new farm law.

WHERE CAN I READ THE NEW LAW FOR MYSELF?
Click here!

For more information about Frank Lucas’s work on a conservative, reform farm bill, please visit the House Agriculture Committee website, or e-mail Congressman Lucas at frank@frankdlucas.com ..

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