WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2012- House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said he is preparing for a “transition period” in the farm bill process during an address at the Farm Journal Forum on Thursday morning. He noted that the amount of savings in an agreement to address the “fiscal cliff” will determine the amount of savings that have to be achieved in a farm bill.
“If the White House and congressional leaders agree on how to avoid the fiscal cliff and call upon the leaders of the agriculture committees, we need to be ready and there’s no reason we can’t be ready,” Lucas said.
However, he noted that a five-year farm bill agreement between the House and the Senate “is no simple legislative achievement” to be won in such a short period of time.
“I’d like to have all my Christmas presents on Christmas morning too, but the magnitude of changes we’re talking about is no simple legislative achievement,” he said. “If I get my way, it’s in the same spirit as all of my colleagues, we’ll do it completely, we’ll do it soon, but you may have to have a transition period to make things work.”
Without saying whether a “transition” agreement would extend direct payments into 2013, he noted that the agriculture committees need to prepare for savings to contribute to a possible last-minute deficit reduction agreement between “the powers that be,” or President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio.
“I don’t want to get caught without a safety net until September of 2013,” Lucas said. “We cannot address all the problems that need to be addressed in a grand agreement in three weeks’ time.”
Lucas also emphasized his commitment to keeping a “price loss coverage” option in the farm bill, in addition to a revenue program. “I understand a revenue program is very important,” he said. “In the House Agriculture Committee, we have revenue language, but we also have a choice.”
“If you depend exclusively on the revenue program, after a certain point you’ll fall off a different kind of cliff,” he added. “We need to give our producers a choice. That’s what price loss coverage is all about.”
Lucas did not say whether his Senate counterparts are willing to adopt a price loss coverage program in a reconciled package, but Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Pat Roberts, R-Kans., said recently that he is willing to compromise on those provisions.
“What’s in the Senate bill will not work for everybody in the best of times,” Lucas said regarding differences in the commodity title. “If not every region can participate it’s not truly a national farm bill.”
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