House Agriculture Committee Chairman Lucas (R-Okla.) has announced a series of field hearings on the 2012 farm bill to take place throughout March and April.

The first one is scheduled for upstate New York with other stops slated for Illinois, Arkansas and Kansas.

The hearings will give House Agriculture Committee members the opportunity to hear firsthand how U.S. farm policy is working for farmers and ranchers in advance of writing legislation.

The field hearings are the next step in the farm bill development.

Last June, Lucas began the effort when the Agriculture Committee held 11 audit hearings on agriculture programs to look for ways to improve programs for farmers, increase efficiency and reduce spending.

The information gained from the audits combined with perspective from the field will serve as a useful reference for committee members.

"Field hearings represent one of the best parts of writing the farm bill because it gives us a chance to see the countryside and visit with folks who are directly impacted by our policy decisions in Washington,” Lucas said.

Agricultural policy affects every American; ensuring that our farmers and ranchers have the necessary tools they need to continue to produce an affordable and stable food supply is as important to our country as national defense.

“It's critical to all of us that we get it right. I look forward to hearing from our producers and from those who live and work in rural America."

The hearings schedule follows:

March 9, 9 a.m. EST, North Country Community College, Sparks Athletic Complex, Saranac Lake, N.Y.; March23, 9 a.m. CDT, Carl Sandburg College, Student Center Building B, 2400 Tom L. Wilson Blvd., Galesburg, Ill.; March 30, 9 a.m. CDT, Riceland Hall, Fowler Center, Arkansas State U., 201 Olympic Drive, State University, Ark.; and April 20, 9 a.m. CDT, Magouirk Conference Center, 4100 W. Comanche, Dodge City, Kan.

For those who cannot attend the hearings, the Committee plans to provide a live webcast at|72|73.