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Interview with Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.)

May 1, 2009
By: Jim Wiesemeyer, Pro Farmer Washington Consultant

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Ranking member on House Ag Committee gives spirited comments on key issues

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

I have covered the business of agriculture from a Washington, D.C., perspective for over thirty years. Every once in a while I interview someone, whether a lawmaker, Cabinet member, industry official, or someone else, who has the ability to capture the essence of key but complex issues. And better yet, to explain such matters in a way that sometimes makes you laugh. One such person is Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee. His homespun views clearly reflect his roots in rural Oklahoma and translate into him being a very effective communicator for U.S. agriculture. I and Roger Bernard, news editor for Pro Farmer, sat down with Lucas earlier this week in his Capitol Hill office to discuss some major issues.

Describe your relationship with House Ag Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), and do you expect the need to draw lines of differentiation with him on any issues?

Lucas: I think the key always to remember is that the Agriculture committee is one of the most bipartisan or least partisan committees. In my 15 years, I've watched chairman Kika de la Garza (D-Texas) and ranking member Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), then Chairman Roberts and ranking member de la Garza; I've watched Larry Combest (R-Texas) and Charlie Stenholm (D-Texas). I've watched the kind of relationships that exist between the chairman and the ranking member without regard to party. Always good. Always solid. Always productive. I think that I am developing that kind of relationship with Chairman Peterson. Collin is a good conservative Blue Dog Democrat. I like to kid him that if he lived in the land of the Okies, he'd be a Republican. He rolls his eyes and declines to answer that and I respect that non-response always. But I think we have the makings of a good relationship.

So far, the things that we've worked on I think we've worked on together. CFTC reform would be a classic example -- an issue that should be and is in my opinion a primary responsibility of the Ag Committee with such an impact on both ag and energy and a variety of industries around the country. That's one of those areas where the challenge is not so much what we do in the Ag Committee -- we passed our measure with a voice vote -- it's what will the Majority leadership do in regard to giving final authority to a committee to put this together. I also serve on Financial Services. Clearly, Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has the ear of the entire leadership in Congress. This is going to be an example of working with Collin -- how we manage to impact the ag perspective.

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