Frank Lucas Addresses Livestock Disaster Assistance, Farm Bill Implementation and EPA OverreachWed, 07 May 2014 12:32:05 CDT
The 2014 Farm Bill is now in its implementation phase and both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are carefully following the law's progress.
Congressman Frank Lucas, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, spoke with Radio Oklahoma Network's Ron Hays about that process. (Click on the LISTEN BAR at the bottom of this story for the full conversation.) He touched on many things, but especially urged producers making use of the livestock disaster assistance program to get signed up soon to avoid any possibility of sequestration in late August. Some producers who signed up early have already received checks and Lucas said he was pleased with the USDA's handling of that program.
"It's good to know that the farm bill, in this stage, is working the way it is supposed to- This sign up will go way into September. There's lots of time, but in the way the sequestration language works if you sign up at the very end there's a potential that the sequestration deduction will occur. So this is a program to sign up sooner rather than later. Do it as quick as you can get your paperwork together. That's the prudent thing that I advocate to my neighbors back home."
One issue that keeps coming up in the progress hearings is the definition of "actively engaged in farming." Lucas said that is not surprising given the discussion that went on during the bill's crafting and passage. He said he hopes an understanding will ultimately get ironed out so that farmers can get down to the work of farming.
Regulatory issues are also on Lucas's plate of late, including the APHIS rule concerning imports of Brazilian beef. A lot of livestock producers are very concerned about the possibility of foot and mouth disease being spread from Brazil to the U.S.
"I think that's a legitimate concern," Lucas said. "And I agree with my various groups that the comment period needs to be reopened and extended for another 120 days. That will give us time to look at the information that the federal government used to craft this rule that would allow it to happen. We're all in favor of free trade, but we've had such a good health record in fighting disease in the United States-in particular foot and mouth-that we just need to be very, very cautious."
Another regulatory issue of great concern to farmers and ranchers is the EPA's proposed Waters of the U.S. Rule. In a talk with farm broadcasters Tuesday, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the Supreme Court gave her agency a directive to clarify definitions and move forward. Lucas took exception with her actions.
"This is a case where the executive branch is trying to do things Congress would never approve. And, for our listeners' benefit, understand, under federal law that exists, the federal government has jurisdiction over all waters that are navigable. And that goes back to some 1850s definition of steamboats. That leaves most of rural America, most of the country in the hands of state regulations
"If you, in effect, make navigable irrelevant in the rules and you give the federal government jurisdiction from the ocean all the way back to the water that runs off of your barn, out of your front yard, off the brim of your hat-I kiddingly tell my constituents back home what if the dog food bowl overflows in the backyard? Now, that's a little bit of humor, but it would give EPA control back to the source. That's frightening.
"So, this is one that we have to fight at every stage of the way. But, once again, it is an example of where the administration can't get Congress to do what they want which is broaden their powers, so they are trying to use the courts as an excuse and the rulemaking process as a mechanism to do it. This is a very dangerous circumstance."
Lucas said he doesn't believe the EPA will be easily deterred in it goal to ram this rule down Americans' throats and the only opportunity to stop it may be in the appropriations process. Unfortunately, without control of both houses of Congress, Lucas and his colleagues may not be able to derail the rule until 2017.
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