Chairman Lucas Reaffirms Commitment To Comprehensive Farm Bill With Strong Safety NetWed, 25 Apr 2012 18:02:46 CDT
Speaking before a gathering of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas outlined the progress made on the current farm bill. The process began with the "Hurry-Up Farm Bill" from last fall that was not adopted and has continued through a series of hearings and field hearings by his committee.
He said he was disappointed to hear that the Senate has delayed action on the bill in their chamber, but said he hopes "they would be able to get back on track and move forward soon. If anything, I can assure you Chairwoman Stabenow will move heaven and earth to get her work done in the United States Senate. I have complete confidence."
Lucas said he has been paying very close attention to the work being done in the Senate, but has remained steadfast on what the final farm bill must include.
"If you're going to have a farm bill, it has to address certain points. A federal comprehensive farm bill, in the commodity title, has to address all regions and all crops. Everyone needs to be able to participate. And to that end, I would note to you, achieving that is a real challenge."
Lucas is very concerned with maintaining a strong safety net for producers. He is not convinced that a shallow loss program being discussed in the Senate will address those concerns
"The language that I've seen, that appeared to be initially what was going to be considered today, the major focus was on the shallow loss program. That's not a safety net. And that's the second point I've made over and over and over again. A farm bill should not just be guaranteeing that the good times are the best, but a farm bill is about one or two or three or four bad years.
"Some of you remember the 1970s. Some of you lived through the 1990s legislatively with me. Sometimes the wheels come off and we have multiple bad years. That's what a safety net is for. And I truly believe the concept of a farm bill is making sure that that safety net is there.
"Something along the concepts of shallow loss in a revenue package guarantees that the good years are going to be good, but what happens when you have two or three or four or five bad years? That causes me great angst.
He said that "in the present versions of revenue, I see coming from the other body, there is no floor. Once you fall through that band at the top in shallow loss, you just keep collapsing. And the preliminary numbers which I've seen before, for instance if you're a wheat farmer and you give up your direct payment on the upper end side in crop revenue, if you fully utilize it, you'll get half the money you would have gotten through the direct payment.
"If you're a corn farmer and you give up your direct payment, but potentially the revenue protection you would receive in the system is twice per acre what the direct payment would have been.
"You don't have to be much of an ag economist to see why this has such an impact and why it generates such strong feelings out in the countryside."
Lucas said that is why it is imperative to address all regions and all commodities with one comprehensive farm bill and that it must have "some kind of a safety net to protect us when the bottom falls out. And I know right now it's kind of like the housing market in 2007-prices are never going down, there will never be enough to meet all the demand, but some of us in this room lived through the 1970s and lived through the 1990s. It doesn't take much of a move in demand to affect price. If the trapdoor falls open, I want us to land on some sort of footstool."
Lucas said he believes that the concept of an adequate safety net, an issue that continues to come up in hearing after hearing after hearing, is taking hold in both chambers, and he's confident that the final version of the farm bill will contain a strong safety net.
"It would appear to me that the message has been sent fairly clearly in the Senate that there has got to be a safety net and it's got to be fair and equitable to everyone who participates. I think that's a very rational message."
You can listen to Chairman Lucas's full address to the NAFB by clicking on the LISTEN BAR below.
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