Legislative Update with Congressman Frank LucasWed, 25 Mar 2015 17:55:05 CDT
Implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill continues to take place. On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its proposal on defining actively engaged in farming. Former House Ag Chairman and Third District Congressman Frank Lucas calls the implementation slow but sure as there were several dramatic changes made in the 2014 Farm Bill over the previous legislation from 2008. He said farmers have had to make decisions on their base acres, along with selecting a farm safety net program. The House Ag Committee will get an update on implementation this week when the head of the Farm Service Agency and Risk Management Agency meet with the Committee.
Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays interviewed Lucas Wednesday. Click or tap on the LISTENBAR below to listen to the full interview.
Implementing the Farm Bill has made steady progress, but one area left to be outlined is updating annual production history for winter wheat. Lucas said USDA has been able to be address spring seeded crops and nearly every crop except winter wheat. He has meet numerous times with U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, but this is the reality that wheat will be treated the same as other crops in the next cycle.
Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) came to the forefront Wednesday. The House Ag Committee held a hearing to get the new members of Congress up to speed on the situation and prepare for the final ruling from the World Trade Organization. Lucas said it is believed that the U.S. will likely lose its case. If that happens, he expects the House Ag Chairman Michael Conaway to undo the 2008 legislation, especially if the WTO lists a group of the trade court issues with counterbalancing penalty quotas, penalty fees, and penalty taxes on other U.S. products. If that happens, this dispute will become a focus area for of the rest of Congress.
Lucas has also put his attention on trying to improve the Environmental Protection Agency. As the Science, Space, and Technology Committee Vice-Chairman Lucas and Congressman Collin Peterson sponsored the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act. The bipartisan bill was passed by the House and now awaits to be brought up in the U.S. Senate. The bill would require the EPA Administrator to have a broader group represented on the Science Advisory Board and take public input. Lucas said if he can't fix the EPA, at least he can improve the one entity that oversees the agency and there is an increased chance for better rules.
On the 5th Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, Congress continues to work to defund the legislation. Lucas said law this will addressed through the budget resolution that will pass this week and the bill would require a budget reconciliation process. Congress is also waiting for the Supreme Court to issue a ruling over how the Affordable Care Act funds health care exchanges and if it is legal.
In the interview, Hays also asks Congressman Lucas about the number of hearings the new House Ag Chairman Conaway has held since the start of the legislative session and the Farm Bill's effort to establish pilot projects in ten states to help Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP) participants find jobs and work toward self-sufficiency. Lucas also addresses the 'Waters of the US' proposal from EPA and how 'WOTUS' will be a long hard fight and how it poses a real threat to everyone.
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