TAMPA, August 29,2012 – House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-OK, is ready to get a farm bill done. So ready that he told those attending the annual Great American Farm luncheon at the GOP convention today that, “I’m not sure which day, I’m not sure which month, but there will be a new farm bill.”
Will it be this year? “That’s the proverbial $6 question,” Lucas remarked during an interview with Agri-Pulse after he delivered his prepared remarks.
“It’s still possible to do a farm bill this calendar year and theoretically, possible before Election day,” Lucas observed. But thus far, he’s received no commitment from House leaders to advance the bill in September.
“We are ready to go to the floor. The question that confronts us in September is that we don’t get back to the 10th and when we return, we will have only 8 days in September. Will time be made available to us?,” he asked.
The Oklahoma Republican says he told his elected leadership, which he refers to as “the management,” that they could “give me midnight to sunrise….I don’t care what time you give me. Just give me time and we’ll progress forward.”
“I know they are concerned about military sequestration, tax code issues, and a continuing resolution to address spending for the next six months. I know they have a lot of very important priorities.
“That’s why, after we’ve been at home almost five weeks, my fellow members of the House need to remind management on both sides of the room that this is important,” he added. Leadership needs to know, “it’s not just Chairman Lucas saying we need a farm bill,” he emphasized.
So why has the GOP leadership been reluctant to schedule floor time?
“I think the leadership is concerned that, by the time you get some Democrats who won’t vote for a farm bill and some Republicans who won’t vote for the farm bill and the nervousness of an election year and suddenly you don’t have 218 votes.
“I don’t believe that’s the case. I believe that, if you have an open, straightforward process, and I would prefer to have a rule that allows 20-30 amendments, that we can achieve consensus,” Lucas explained. “The debate will help educate the members as a whole of what we are trying to do.”
Asked about the possibility of passing an extension before the current farm bill expires on Sept. 30, Lucas says he’s still focused on passing a bill through regular order. And that will continue to be his focus when Congress returns next month.
“I’m basically telling both sides that, as the drought has demonstrated in the Midwest this year and in the Southwest the last two years, economic certainty is important to farmers and their bankers and ultimately consumers.
“Let’s do a farm bill. Let’s do the responsible thing,” he emphasized.
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