WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2014 – House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said today he has a proposal to possibly settle the dairy policy battle, which is one issue stalling movement on a long-term farm bill.
Lucas would not offer any details about how he intends to resolve differences between the positions of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn. “Let’s just say that nobody has said ‘no’ so far, and in the world I operate in, it’s a miracle,” Lucas said.
Boehner has consistently opposed dairy stabilization provisions in the Dairy Security Act (DSA), which he has viewed as governmental “supply management.” Peterson has said the DSA provisions would limit over-production, and coupled with margin insurance, would protect dairy producers from sudden drops in price.
“You have to have disincentives to have the market make rational decisions,” Lucas said. “That’s not just dairy policy, that’s everything in life.”
Lucas said any compromise would have to provide a rational market signal to producers “without telling you how to turn the valve on your milk tank.”
Peterson apparently has not had the chance to say “no” yet to a Lucas proposal. “I haven’t seen any language,” Peterson said, standing within earshot of Lucas after a House vote Wednesday. “I would be surprised if I’m going to change my position because I’m right.”
Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, also said he has not seen Lucas’ dairy proposal, but noted he thought Lucas was “a little more encouraging and thinks we made progress today.”
And as the congressional clock ticks down on January, Conaway and other lawmakers are conceding that any final farm bill passage is slipping into February. “Realistically, it will be the first half of February,” Conaway said.
Separately, at a meeting of House conservatives today, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said the four principal conferees have been very quiet on negotiations. “No one can see into this,” King said.
Also, Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, said today that they plan to send a letter to farm bill conferees requesting that funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program be included in the final farm bill conference report.
The program provides federal payments to local governments to help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal land within their boundaries. These resources are critical to rural counties that use the funding to provide services such as police, fire protection, and emergency response.
Meanwhile, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said she met today with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack about the need to pass a comprehensive farm bill, the status of the sugar industry, and the importance of agricultural trade to North Dakota.
Heitkamp said she and Vilsack agreed that this is an important week for a potential deal on the farm bill.
“The secretary said he is committed to providing any needed support to help bridge the differences between the two bills, and stands at the ready to implement changes in the bill for the coming crop year,” Heitkamp said. “We need to keep the pressure on and finish this deal.”
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