As Farm Bill Efforts Progress, Rep. Frank Lucas Lays Out the Work Ahead for Congressional LeadersFri, 22 Jun 2018 13:19:37 CDT
With the US House of Representatives passing, yesterday, its version of the 2018 Farm Bill, Oklahoma’s Third District Congressman and former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, took time to visit with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays to discuss some of the challenges ahead of Congressional leaders as they work forward to get a final bill written out of Conference with their counterparts in the Senate. Assuming the Senate follows the House’s lead and passes its own version of the bill in a timely manner, it is expected delegates of the two bodies will enter into Conference negotiations during July and August to potentially produce a final bill that can be signed into law before the current 2014 Farm Bill expires at the end of September. Congressman Lucas says he is confident it can be done, but admits there is much work to be done before that is realized. Listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below.
“There’s a number of places where on the surface it appears they have dramatic differences,” Lucas said about the two versions of the Farm Bill. “The biggest challenge, is SNAP, what many of us refer to as the Food Stamp Program - where the House would now mandate that able-bodied people… would be required, to receive their food stamps, to seek additional training; education to better themselves. Or if they don’t want to go to school, then at least work 20 hours a week to earn their food stamps. That’s in the House, the Senate Ag Committee has nothing to do with that. So, we’ll see in Conference what works out. But, I bet you’ll see more flexibility in the Food Stamp language.”
Beyond that, other issues pertaining to the importance of certain programs like among others CSP, CRP, EQIP and how those should be administered will absolutely be discussed, but namely the industry’s safety net programs. Lucas asserts that having an effective safety net program in place is unconditionally imperative to farmers and believes that ARC and PLC, although potentially refined to some degree, will most definitely make it into the language of a final bill. Obviously, he says this will take some time for the Conference Committee to completely hash out, and in the event it is unable to produce a final bill by the current legislation’s expiration - he is fairly confident Congress will grant an extension of the 2014 Farm Bill. The most obvious obstacle to accomplishing this task is getting our leadership, all with very different opinions, to cooperate.
“Customarily in a Conference Committee, the senators, by their nature both Republicans and Democrats alike, tend to work in unison. It is critically important that the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the House Ag Committee be unified in how we approach the Senate in working these issues out,” Lucas explained. “Colin’s (Peterson) not happy with the Food Stamp issues - then neither will the Senate be. So, I think that helps drive a result. But, in the rest of the Farm Bill, Colin has a huge imprint on the bill. He has a vested interest in the core policies here. So, I think ultimately he’ll be very helpful in getting the Farm Bill out of Conference and to the President’s desk for his signature.”
The President’s attitude regarding the Farm Bill is in itself a whole other issue. But, Lucas says he feels certain that given a few adjustments of what has been drafted so far, the President would most likely sign what they present him. Lucas offered some insight into President Trump’s mind and how lawmakers will have to carefully craft a bill that appeals to his agenda.
“In several personal meetings, he’s made it quite clear to me, he means to make the world trade system more equitable and fair to all US producers of all commodities, both agricultural and non,” he said. “And he is bound and determined to prevail.”
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