WASHINGTON, June 12, 2013 - On the heels of Monday’s Senate farm bill passage, the House is now preparing to bring their own legislation to the floor.
The Senate was able to pass their farm bill with ease in a 66-27 vote, and the House is anticipated to begin floor debate on their own bill, H.R. 1947, next week. With such a broad piece of legislation covering so many different subjects, House Ag Committee Chair Frank Lucas, R-Okla., is expecting hundreds of amendments to the bill. Lucas said he is hoping to see some a more streamlined process.
“I would hope that somewhere around Monday, the Rules Committee will put out a call for proposed amendments to the farm bill,” Lucas said during the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives meeting this morning. “I would assume that instead of dozens or 100, we might see hundreds of amendments filed.”
To help with keeping debate focused and orderly, Lucas said he is hoping to see some kind of rule by Tuesday that would eliminate redundancy in the process. He said this would allow for the open process that Speaker Boehner, R-Ohio, has insisted on.
“Instead of voting on 500 amendments, 250 of which might be similar, maybe we’ll vote on dozens,” Lucas said of the potential amendment rule. “Maybe we’ll vote on 30 or 40. We’ll have an orderly debate and discussion and consider all areas.”
There are a few areas that may be especially contentious - most notably in dairy and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program - on the House floor. When referencing the differences among senior Ag Committee members on dairy policy, Lucas likened the debate to watching two bulls fight in a pasture and said sometimes you have to let the bulls, or legislators for the sake of his analogy, “sort it out themselves.”
In working to achieve a new five-year farm bill, Lucas said the lack of previous experience on the issue in the House has proven to be “one of the biggest hurdles” in the process of advancing the legislation. Couple the inexperience with a growing number of representatives with a limited background in agriculture, and Lucas said the committee has had to “reinvent the wheel” to push this legislation forward.
“Half the (House) body wasn’t here for the last farm bill debate,” Lucas said. “The turnover in membership and institutional understanding and experience is incredible ... It matters that you have experiences. It matters that you’ve been a part of the process. It matters that you understand the history of why do something.”
Lucas himself admitted that he doesn’t know what the bill will look like if and when it gets past the House floor, but he said it will be a bill that will get them to conference where differences can be worked out with the Senate.
Before he “headed out the door like a cat with his tail on fire” to begin work with his colleagues, Lucas emphasized that certain aspects of agriculture are out of the control of human hands. Even with that in mind, Lucas said it’s important to make sure the things that Congress can do are done in a way that is beneficial to American agriculture.
“I can’t do anything about the weather, but by golly, I can have strong crop insurance,” Lucas said. “I can create programs that address Mother Nature, and I can make sure working with my colleagues in the House, we have federal policies that give our folks not just a chance to survive, but to prosper.”
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