Lucas Provides More Farm Bill Markup Details

April 29, 2013 12:35 AM
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No word yet from GOP leadership re: timing for floor action

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

House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), via an interview cited by Congressional Quarterly, revealed additional farm bill markup details than those that previously surfaced last week, including a May 15 markup date (tentative) and a 10-year savings of $38 billion.

In the interview, Lucas said the House GOP leadership has not committed yet to a timing for floor action. "What I've gotten out of leadership is that we can't do any more extensions. The environment is not there to support that, therefore we've got to do our work. When they fit us into their work, that I don't know yet," Lucas said.

SNAP up for $20 billion in cuts. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps), which accounts for about 80 percent of farm bill spending, would be reduced by $20 billion under the new bill, with the rest of the savings coming primarily out of the commodity and conservation titles, Lucas said in the interview. The cut to SNAP would be significantly larger than the committee proposed last year. That bill would have cut total spending by $26.6 billion, with $11.7 billion of that coming out of SNAP and other nutrition programs, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). That bill was originally projected to save $35 billion overall, but CBO last month reduced its estimate of the SNAP savings by $4.3 billion and raised the cost projections for the commodity, crop insurance and conservation titles.

Lucas in the CQ interview defended the breakdown in cuts in the new bill, saying the planned reduction to the food stamp program "would cause me some controversy back home" because it isn't larger. "When you’re saving $20 billion through reforms in a part of the bill that is 80 percent of all the money and then saving $18 billion in the bill that’s 20 percent of the money there will be some frowning," he said.

Lucas said the new bill would make bigger cuts in conservation spending, including the Conservation Stewardship Program, than last year's legislation. Lucas again hinted that the Conservation Reserve Program also would likely be reduced by more than proposed last year.

The commodity title will be left largely intact, he said. Target prices in the Price Loss Coverage program will be "very close" to the levels in last year's bill, he said.

Comments: I again note that the real action in the new farm bill debate will come during floor action, especially in the House, where some amendments are expected to deal with crop insurance, dairy policy and the U.S. sugar program. With the wide difference of budget savings between the two markups ($23 billion in the Senate and $38 billion in the House), that means coming conference or some other action to work out that and other major differences between the two chambers will make committee markup a tame affair.

Bottom line: Don't get too excited on what is in the committee markup bills. Some topics could be significantly altered once the farm bill saga reaches the end zone.

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






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