Congressman Lucas Expresses Confidence 2012 Farm Bill Will Proceed Through House and Onto President's DeskMon, 09 Jul 2012 16:18:06 CDT
Work on the 2012 Farm Bill moves to the floor of the House of Representatives Wednesday. The final draft of the bill authored by Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Collin Peterson was released last week and will form the basis for debate, discussion and amendment.
Ron Hays spoke with Congressman Lucas about reactions from his constituents to the House version of the bill and the work yet ahead to get the bill onto the President’s desk.
“The key thing to remember is that we’ve tried to craft a balanced, reform-minded, fiscally-responsible bill,” Lucas said. “And in the feedback I’ve had from the folks out in the countryside who had a chance to see information about the draft that was released last week that we will be using as the base text next Wednesday, I think a pretty positive response.
“Now there are some, perhaps, in the Midwest who view the Senate bill as the bill to end all bills, but for a bill to pass the House of Representatives, a bill to pass out of the Agriculture Committee, we have to do a little bit more than they did and I think we’ll get that done.”
The Senate shallow-loss proposal is more generous than the House proposal, but Lucas said he doesn’t think that will be a fatal stumbling block preventing the bill’s ultimate passage.
“In the House version you’re going to have to have more skin in the game before it kicks in. Instead of the 11-percent number it’ll be a 15-percent price swing before it kicks in. That’s not dramatic, but it is a change and it is relevant.
“Of course we also need to remember that the Senate version is essentially ‘the’ proposal. In the House we give producers in all commodity groups an option between the revenue program-shallow loss-or something along the lines of the protection program, the assumption prices-some people want to call it target prices-by giving producers an option. I think you may be surprised if our version is the version they ultimately sign into law and I hope that’s the case. You may be surprised the number of people who take the House option.”
Lucas said the House option with its countercyclical basis is more familiar to producers.
“The concept in the Senate side is that you take the last five years of prices, and in certain commodity groups those have been most amazing, and if you have some minor swings in price, then you get a payment under the revenue program. Now, once you pass through this swing at the top of the price chart, if you have long-term price problems or multiple-year problems, basically the program winds down and you’re left without.
“The House perspective is instead of trying to make the best years the very, very best, we want to create a safety net so that if we have-as we had in the seventies and as we had in the nineties, whether it’s driven by demand or supply--a collapse in prices, we want to have a floor there, a safety net so that producers don’t just fall completely through the whole process.”
Lucas said the Congressional Budget Office has verified the House version of the farm bill will achieve solid savings.
“We will achieve approximately $14 billion over on the commodity side of the equation. We’ll achieve about 16 billion on the nutrition side, approximately six billion or so on the conservation side. Now, we’ll plow part of those savings in the commodity title back into the safety net. But the net bottom line is we’ll save more than $35 billion dollars.
“That’s substantially more than the Senate’s approximately $23-billion number and greater savings than the President called for in his last two budgets of approximately $33 billion dollars in savings. We’re the frugal bunch when it comes to the taxpayers’ dollars.”
He said that even though 80 percent of the dollars spent in the farm bill are for social programs and only 20 percent goes to agriculture and conservation efforts, the cost savings were split relatively half and half at the direction of his constituents.
Lucas said he has a very straightforward game plan for shepherding the Farm Bill through the House when it goes to the floor this week.
“The draft that was released a few days ago is the draft that we will work off this coming Wednesday. We will go through the bill title by title: nutrition, conservation, commodities, not necessarily in that particular order, but we’ll go through the titles of the bill. The titles will be opened for amendment by members of both the majority and the minority. We’ll debate and discuss those amendments as they come up and vote on them, accepting or rejecting, and work our way through the process.
“I don’t know how many days this will take. We, of course, have to suspend mark-up when we have votes on the floor of the United States House, as is appropriate. But it would be my intention that once we start this process, short of voting on the floor, with the agreement, of course, of my Ranking Member, I’d like to just push this on until we are completed, whenever that may be.”
Lucas said once a final bill has passed the House, his past experience with Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow leads him to believe the conference committee work will proceed smoothly to a fair conclusion.
Click on the LISTEN BAR below to hear more of the conversation between Ron Hays and Frank Lucas.
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