What is in this article?:
- Farm bill will happen; timing is the question
- Time is a problem
• The consequences of not getting a farm bill passed would be hard “on rural America.
• It will be a comprehensive farm bill.
• The historic reason for a farm bill has been to “provide certainty for farmers and ranchers.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas is convinced the nation’s farmers and ranchers will get a new farm bill.
He stops short of predicting just when that will happen, however.
“I don’t know when; I don’t know what shape; I don’t know what every nuance of policy will be; I don’t know how or when — yet,” says Lucas, R-Okla. “But there will be a farm bill we can all participate in. Be assured of that. It will be a comprehensive farm bill.”
Lucas, speaking at the inaugural Southwest Ag Issues Summit in Austin, expressed some degree of frustration at times concerning the lack of progress in getting the bill he ushered out of committee onto the House floor.
The consequences of not getting a farm bill passed would be hard “on rural America first, then on banks, then small towns and then across the country. A strong Rural America is necessary for the good of the nation.”
He said if he gets as much as “a quarter of an inch opening: in a window of opportunity to get the farm bill on the floor of the House, “I’ll drive a freight train through it.”
Responding to an audience question about his interaction with House leadership on bringing the bill to a vote, he said, “When I’m in Washington, I’m like a rash, I’m all over them.”
He believes Congress can pass a farm bill and have it on the President’s desk before the election, but concedes that time is growing short. “The window of opportunity is still there,” he said. “It will depend on the members’ attitudes when they get back from recess.”
If, after visiting constituents, members come back more focused on deficit reduction, jobs and other issues, the farm bill may be overlooked.
“I think Speaker Boehner understands the ramifications of the farm bill,” Lucas said. “He also understands he has a large number of freshmen who were elected on a promise to cut everything.”
He said a faction of Congress on the far left “never want to spend anything on Rural America. But on the far right they don’t want to spend any money on any occasion for any reason.”
The key, he said, is to “achieve a consensus of the middle,” a harder chore with the current polarization of Congress.
“But I think we can do that. If we can get time on the floor, the committee will do its work. The bill may not look exactly like the one that came out of committee, but I think we can get something that we can work through a relatively quick conference.”
He said the best way to get a farm bill signed is to “put it on (President) Obama’s desk before election day.”
Other possibilities include using budget reconciliation to attach a farm bill or to seek a one-year extension of the current law, a possibility that may occur even if Congress acts quickly to pass a five-year bill. He said the timing would require some sort of transition to allow regulations to be written and put into place.