WASHINGTON, April 18, 2013 – House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., plans to start marking up a new five-year farm bill on May 15, according to committee spokesperson Tamara Hinton.

Lucas met with Majority Leader Eric Cantor Thursday and discussed timing for the measure. The Virginia Republican asked Lucas to consider taking more time, but the Chairman plans to proceed as originally planned.

“Chairman Lucas did meet with Majority Leader Cantor today to discuss his plans to move forward with a May 15 markup date for the farm bill,” Hinton confirmed.  “Chairman Lucas also told him that, in the interim, he would be happy to hold listening sessions to gather input from his Republican colleagues.”

Republican leaders warned Lucas last year that there would not be sufficient votes within the GOP caucus to pass a farm bill last year because of several contentious issues including food stamps, dairy policy and commodity programs. It’s unclear whether or not any of those likely “nay” votes have indicated a change of heart.

The House Committee on Agriculture approved a new farm bill during a late night session July 12 last year, but GOP leaders never scheduled floor debate. Instead, most parts of the 2008 farm bill were extended until the end of the current fiscal year.

However, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, expressed optimism during his annual farm forum that a farm bill would be passed in 2013.

After the House failed to pass a farm bill last year, a farmer attending Boehner’s March forum asked if “Congress will be in the same boat this year?”

“I hope not,” Boehner chuckled. “I've talked to the Chair and ranking member of the Agriculture Committee and I’m very hopeful we will get a farm bill this year.

But when pressed about what has changed in the 113th Congress that makes him more optimistic regarding farm bill passage this year as compared to last, the speaker provided few specifics.

“Hope springs eternal in my world,” he said. “I’m hopeful that they will be able to come to some agreement.

“It's been a rather contentious issue - not because of the farm issues, but because 80 percent of the farm bill (spending) is nutrition programs. Some things went on in 2009 and 2010 that greatly expanded the food stamp program. There is a lot of fraud in the program and it needs to be dealt with. Some of our members want to deal with it, others don’t. I think that’s been the biggest impediment to getting the farm bill, but I’m optimistic that we will get a farm bill this year.

The speaker said there are 18 million more people on food stamps compared to four years ago because of the new eligibility requirements.

“American people don’t mind seeing their hard-earned money being spent to provide a safety net, but they surely hate to see people take advantage of their hard-earned tax dollars,” Boehner added.



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