Lucas: 'I'd Rather Have Nothing Than a Farm Bill Without Price Loss Coverage'

December 6, 2012 02:43 AM

House Ag Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) gave a personal assessment of why his line-in-the-sand on a new farm bill must include a producer choice between revenue and price loss coverage, saying his family history which included experiences of the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s with failed farm policies at the time, and his personal experience with failed farm policy of the 1980s, led him to a fervent belief that farm policy under his watch must not return to failed policies of the past, but rather to more effective policy to handle any significant revenue and price downturn ahead and be fair for all regions of the country and not a one-size-fits-all policy.

Update on farm bill negotiations. Lucas, speaking at the Farm Journal Forum, cosponsored by Informa Economics, said that ongoing farm bill negotiations are yielding results on the commodity title. "I think we’ve made great progress in recent days," Lucas said.  He offered no specifics, but said USDA must prepare for developing a revenue-based subsidy program "with an option for price loss program."

Asked if he would draw a line in the sand on a price loss option, Lucas signaled. "If the farm bill that ultimately becomes law is not something every region can participate in, I would rather have nothing. That's why I provide choice [in the House farm bill]," Lucas said.

Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) will also talk to the confab, along with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Lucas noted that all standing committees must be ready to deliver on a hoped-for agreement among President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) relative to so-called fiscal cliff issues. If so, Lucas said the farm bill must have a designated amount of savings the Ag Committees must address by a likely given timeframe in a process he called a "budget reconciliation process" and that the Ag Committee would "step up to the plate and deliver what is needed."

Lucas also mentioned the likely need for a "transition period" to implement a new farm bill – he did not use the word extension relative to what is likely going to be some type of extension of the 2008 Farm Bill. "I actually likes the folks down at USDA," Lucas said. "But they are going to need time to implement some of the very significant changes" in what will be in the new farm bill. In addition, he said, the Farm Service Agency will need to have new software programming and other things to implement these programs. "That takes time."

Noting that nutrition programs take up around 80% of farm bill spending, Lucas said "You can make real reforms in nutrition programs and still not take one calorie off a participants' plate. And after reforms, it will be a much more defensible and dependable program."

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