Lucas Tells POLITICO: Wed. Evening Spent Going Over Agreed-to Farm Bill Language

November 17, 2011 12:54 AM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

House Ag leader says he is 'more optimistic' than he's been in several days

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

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) carefully picks where he puts out information from the behind-closed-door farm bill negotiations. And sometimes it's not the farm press. The latest is remarks to POLITICO.

Lucas's comments to POLITICO's David Rogers (link) provides a more upbeat assessment of the current farm bill state of affairs. That backs up comments from some farm industry lobbyists with close ties to the House Ag Committee.

"This is like the ocean — you pitch up, and you pitch down and you pitch up. And right now, we are on the upside of a wave," Lucas told POLITICO. "The devil’s in the details here, but I am more optimistic now than I have been in several days."

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) earlier on Wednesday revealed that the commodity title in the secretive farm bill proposals overshot the spending target by up to $8 billion over 10 years. Major cause: a generous program for wheat producers pushed by Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.). Conrad was the real author of a lot of the 2008 Farm Bill, and this has been a sensitive topic among current Senate Ag Committee staff and leaders. The multibillion-dollar overreach was because lawmakers want to put the subsidy trigger closer to if not at the farm level.

"I expect to see the real agreed-to language tonight (Wednesday evening), and we’ll spend the night going over it," Lucas told POLITICO. "By the strong interest that certain senior Democrats in the Senate have shown in this effort, somebody thinks there will be a [Super Committee deficit-reduction] package to attach it to."

CBO’s estimate of the counter-cyclical program, according to POLITICO, is about $9.3 billion alone and wheat growers — who have been promised a higher target price as well, according to the publication — "may be attracted to the program as an alternative to revenue insurance. But the greater focus of criticism has been on the generosity some see toward rice, which has been promised a target of about $14 per hundredweight."

POLITICO noted what some critics have been saying for weeks – that "this translates into almost the full cost of production and is excessive." Rice interests would argue that the real benefit is closer to $9 per hundredweight because the payments will apply to only 85 percent of planted acres and are often based on lower past yields.

Comments: This could be just spin by another lawmaker. As Lucas noted, this is like the ocean. Some watching this process would call it more like a tidal wave. The real debate, as I have noted before, will come after any agreement is reached. Then the true budget analysis and policy implications can be assessed. Out in the open and not just among the select few.


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






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