Patrick B. McGuigan
Oklahoma U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas of Cheyenne, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, is co-sponsor of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act. The measure, House Resolution 6083, went to the House floor after about 15 hours of committee deliberation on July 11 led to “markup” of the bill.
H.R. 6083 has drawn liberal opposition for savings made through tightened eligibility procedures for in food stamps, the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), as well as conservative opposition (including some members of the Republican Study Committee) for total costs.
Although facing the Farm Bill’s usual deadline of late September for renewal (a process that occurs every five years, by statute), some analysts believe the FARRM Act might not be voted on until after the November election -- perhaps during a “lame duck” session.
In an interview Wednesday (July 18) with CapitolBeatOK, Rep. Lucas discussed prospects for a floor debate and vote before the November election. He commented:
“The House Agriculture Committee passed the FARRM Act with a large bipartisan vote of 35-11 and it is my hope and the hope of committee members that we will have floor time; that a window of opportunity will present itself for us to work this process to a conclusion.
“The drought conditions across the country could help get the attention of management. They’re a strong reminder of the risks our producers face and why it’s important to pass a bill so that they have the tools necessary to manage risk.”
Asked if there is a change the bill gets delayed until a “lame duck” time frame (after the general election, and before the next congressional term begins), Lucas replied, “It’s ultimately too soon to say. But I will say that I am prepared to do whatever it takes to get a farm bill on the books to provide certainty for farmers and ranchers for the next five years.”
Some conservative critics of the House bill concede, at least in part, the desirability of Lucas’ stated goal to "provide visibility" in the farm subsidies/price supports process through policy reforms. However, they contend that is not enough of a "win" to buy into an otherwise bad and overly expensive bill.
Asked to respond, Lucas observed:
“My friends on the left don’t want to spend any money on rural America. My friends on the right don’t want to spend any money for any reason. But what the markup of the FARRM Act demonstrated was that there is a consensus to advance a balanced, reform-minded, fiscally responsible farm bill that achieves real cuts to government spending.”
Some members of the House are working to split the bill into two parts -- one dealing with SNAP (nutrition programs including food stamps), and the other with agriculture policy, per se, including price supports, commodity subsidies and related programs.
CapitolBeatOK asked Lucas what would happen to the bill’s prospects if the legislation gets divided along these lines. He replied:
“Through the years, the Farm Bill has really become a three-legged stool that addresses raising food and fiber, meeting nutrition needs, and taking care of wildlife and the environment. I truly believe that we have to draw upon all those particular points of view if we are going to pass a comprehensive bill.
“It’s uncertain if we could pass a free-standing commodity title in today’s climate in the nation’s Capitol.”
On Monday (July 16), in an interview with Mike Adams of “AgriTalk,” Rep. Lucas said he believes a consensus is still possible for the FARRM Act. He reflected, “it may be ugly, it may be loud. I may look like a wrung up washrag by the time the process is over with, but this is the great legislative system we use in this country.”