Congressman Frank Lucas, (R-Okla.), chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee, says he is still waiting on budget numbers for the 2012 Farm Bill and admits passage in 2012 may be difficult. The comments were made in an interview with Mike Adams, host of AgriTalk Radio.
“I think (passage) is still possible but it is a tough lift,” said Lucas. “All the farm groups will need to pull together.” If the new farm bill is not passed by June, Lucas believes it may not pass this year. The 2008 Farm Bill will begin to expire at the end of this summer and an agreement on a new bill will be needed prior to that time or law would revert to regulations crafted by the 1949 Farm Act.
Another possibility is for the current farm bill to be extended until the 2012 version is enacted. Something will have to happen to prevent reverting to the 1949 Act which will be “very disruptive,” Lucas says.
Obtaining a balance between Republicans who want large budget cutbacks on everything and Democrats who are reluctant to fund rural America will be a big challenge. “It’s a hard, hard fight,” says Lucas.
Lucas admits that preserving direct payments in the new farm bill will be extremely difficult and he expects significant opposition in attempts to retain them in the 2012 Farm Bill. “Outside groups have intensely attacked direct payments and it will cause tremendous battle on the floor.”
Lucas also commented on recent cutbacks to USDA’s Farm Service Agency, announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The federal budget is so far out of balance and the deficit has grown to such a tremendous degree we understand the cutbacks,” said Lucas. “I understand the issue. It is a sign of how tough the budget process is going to be this year.”
Lucas said the cutbacks cause him some angst. “But, after three years of expanded government I am pleased to see the President talking about shrinkage.”