Lucas Pushing for Quicker Implementation of Farm BillFri, 19 Sep 2014 12:28:21 CDT
House Ag Chairman Frank Lucas is pleased on the progress being made to implement the Farm Bill, but some areas are taking longer than expected. This week Lucas held a public hearing Wednesday to review the implementation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Radio Oklahoma Network Farm News Director Ron Hays interviewed Chairman Lucas about the hearing as well as the implementation on the rest of the Farm Bill. Click on the LISTEN BAR below for the full interview.
The hearing featured US Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack and he was the only representative from the US Department of Agriculture. Lucas said makes a strong statement that he understands the priority the House Ag Committee places upon this.
The Agricultural Act of 2014 provided up to ten states with $200 million to operate new Employment and Training pilot projects. Lucas this pilot project allow states to create a program to require able-bodied adults without dependents to be required to work for their food stamps. The pilot projects aims to attract participation from states in different regions of the country with different demographics. Lucas said the voluntary program allows states be innovative in developing and testing methods to help adults secure employment and job training and reduce their dependency on SNAP. Lucas said he goal of the Farm Bill was to gives states as much flexibility as possible to come up with programs that would meet that standard of requiring able-bodied adults without dependents to work for their food stamps.
"This could very well be the laboratory that establishes the way in which we handle food stamps, the nutrition programs, in years to come," Lucas said.
At the hearing, Vilsack stated he has been calling governors personally soliciting for participation in the program. As far as implementation of the rest of the Farm Bill, Vilsack said progress was being made. Members of the Ag Committee asked him about Actual Production History Adjustment Option.
"He (Vilsack) once again defended that he didn't have the resources, he didn't have the time to get it done," Lucas said. "It is clearly on my mind and the minds of many members around the country, so we are continuing to encourage the Secretary to redouble his efforts to fully implement all of the Farm Bill stuff. But by in large I think considering the magnitude of the changes from the old Farm Bill to the new reforms, they're probably in a general way doing the best they can."
Last week the US House passed a bill to halt the Environmental Protection Agency and US Army Corps of Engineers' proposed 'Waters of the US' rule (WOTUS). Lucas said the House took the position to tell EPA to back off, but he was not confident the Senate will follow suit. Lucas said it does look like there will be a change of control of the US Senate. Lucas said Congress will have control of the appropriations process, so they can impact EPA's budget if they try to implement such a rule.
Looking ahead Congress will be back in session for two weeks in November and two weeks in December. Lucas said they may have oversight hearings over USDA to encourage them along with the implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill, but for the most part the major issues have been taken care of.
The passage of the 2014 Farm Bill remains some what a miracle. Lucas said in the last four years the only major comprehensive bill that has gone through the regular order of subcommittee, full committee, conference, across the floor and signed into law by the President was the 2014 Farm Bill .
"When no one else could get anything done, the Ag Committee in the House and Senate got its work done and achieved major reform in all areas," Lucas said. "I would like to think all that effort, all that educational process, all the strain and struggle we went through for two and half years in crafting that legislation, I would like to think that will gives us credit with our colleagues in the House and Senate when it comes time to defend this product."
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