Congressman Lucas Talks Farm Bill Implementation, Waters of the USWed, 23 Jul 2014 16:29:09 CDT
Rollout of the new Farm Bill will continue to be a gradual process. The first program to be rolled out was the Livestock Disaster Assistance program that begin in April. House Ag Chairman and Oklahoma Third District Congressman Frank Lucas says the program was set up with a lot of language from the 2008 Farm Bill to minimize complications of implementing the new program, but so far signup has been very challenging to date.
"When it came time to actually implement, USDA told me essentially as they told producers across the country, that they have three different platforms of computer software that do not work together, that they have been working nonstop with IBM and other folks to try and perfect that, but what it amounts is producers have been obligated to set down with pencil and paper and work with local FSA office folks," Lucas said. "It's a slow process, but its worth your time."
In a phone interview with Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays, Lucas says the program is worth the time especially for producers impacted by drought in the southwest United States. He recommends producers make an appointment with their local Farm Service Agency office because of the amount of time and effort involved. He says producers need to be patient, and be prepared to spend some time, possibly several hours. While signup for the livestock disaster programs continues into 2015, Lucas wants producers to think about getting into their local FSA office before September 30th.
"So if you don't apply before the new fiscal year, you may find yourself with a reduced payment based on the consequences of the automatic cuts of sequestration," Lucas said.
Recently wheat growers from Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and Colorado asked the Risk Management Agency to implement actual production history adjustment provisions of the Agricultural Act of 2014 in time for the 2015 crop year. Lucas says representatives from the US Department of Agriculture have said they can't implement APH the process because they have so much going on with implementing the Farm Bill. Lucas has recommended USDA at least look at the hardest hit areas impacted by drought.
"If you can't implement it for the whole country for this coming crop year, atleast look at Oklahoma and Texas, Colorado, California, New Mexico, Kansas, the places that have suffered from the drought," Lucas said. "If you can't implement the whole thing atleast consider doing a partial implementation in the hardest hit areas."
"Producers who have really suffered in recent years, this APH is the difference in having viable crop insurance for the coming year or not having viable crop insurance," he said.
With implementing the rest of the farm safety net, often referred to as Title I, Lucas says progress is on track. He says USDA has a lot of work to do in moving away from old direct payments system to move to a risk management safety net, there are a lot of changes that are taking place. Lucas says as farmers work with FSA staff, he asks producers to have a little heart, as USDA staff is dealing with new software, new rules and they are dealing with a lot of changes right now and are doing the best they can.
The 2014 Farm Bill also includes funding for watershed rehabilitation. This past week Jason Weller, Natural Resource Conservation Service Chief made the national announcement $262 million dollars will be used for watershed rehabilitation projects in 26 states. Ten percent of the funds will be used in Oklahoma. Luces says this funding will accelerate the watershed rehabilitation program.
"When the Chief of the NRCS announced this last week, that it was his intent to let contracts to use this window of opportunity to commit the whole sum of money to jump start the program, I was so pleased," Lucas said. "Here we have a NRCS Chief who really cares about conservation.....and he is willing to use the opportunity that we provided to put $262 million dollars to work."
In using the funds to rehabilitate 14 watershed dams in Oklahoma, Lucas says these dams provide benefits to everyone who is downstream and these dams protect people and community from flood waters.
In having Weller last week speaking in Perry, Oklahoma for the national announcement, Lucas says during his visit they did discuss the Environmental Protection Agencies 'Waters of the US' proposal.
"He was very cautious in his comments to me," Lucas said. "He understands the reason that I and the rest of the rural America are so sensitive about this EPA proposal."
Lucas says something has to done about this rule proposal. He says there is piece of legislation that has passed out of committee from Transportation Infrastructure Committee to overturn this proposal. He says he also anticipates riders on the House Appropriations Bill to stop the legislation.
"We have to do something about this," Lucas said. "When you take away the effect the term navigable.....from the definition of what waters the EPA has control of, then that really gives them the ability to supersede states and reach out and touch everyone."
"All the way back to the drip off the barn, the drip off our house, the drip off the front parking lot of our business or the brim off our hat and that is scary is Ron (Hays), especially with this present leadership at EPA in the senior level," he said.
Click on the LISTEN BAR to listen to Chairman Lucas and Ron Hays as they talk about the rollout of the 2014 Farm Bill.
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