Congressman Lucas Addresses Trade, House Ag Committee Priorities and EPA OverreachWed, 29 Apr 2015 18:17:25 CDT
For the last four decades Congress has given the President of the United States Trade Promotion Authority. Since TPA expired in 2007, the ability for the Obama Administration to "fast track" trade negotiations have been stalled. The Former House Ag Chairman Congressman Frank Lucas is excited to see that Congress has finally moved forward with TPA. He said TPA is needed to negotiate trade deals, to open up international markets, lower trade barriers and bring the final agreement back to Congress for an up or down vote.
"By the time you give the authority, by the time the process is put to use, by the time new agreements are reached, 21 months will have passed," Lucas said. "We will have a new President in 21 months, so my perspective is, we have to open up our access to markets around the world. That's what agriculture survived on since colonial times."
TPA is needed for continued progress on free trade agreements. Negotiations are underway for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the proposed agreement between the US and the European Union. In passing TPA, Lucas is hopeful this will help push the process along with both agreements. Lucas said TPP is important for his district in selling pork products into Japan, but the U.S. needs this opportunity to sell products in a fair fashion, but in order to get TPP, he said Congress needs to get TPA passed.
The Former Ag Chairman continues to watch the efforts of the House Ag Committee. The new Chairman Michael Conaway has been addressing implementation of the Farm Bill along with further review of food stamp programs that make up 80 percent of the Farm Bill. Congressman Lucas doesn't foresee that the 2014 Farm Bill will reopened, but he anticipates the financial support of the nation's nutrition programs will be reviewed this year. He think for the next 21 months the White House would be opposed of any reforms the Ag Committee would offer. While the 2014 Farm Bill is in place for the next five years, Lucas said there can and will be attacks on the funding for the legislation. He said there is mandatory funding for the five year period and each year Congress passes an agricultural appropriations bill for the day to day operations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"It's that's funding bill for USDA that creates a window of opportunity for people to attack the five year bill," Lucas said. "So 'yes' we've got a Farm Bill in place for five but every year for the full five we have to defend the provisions in that process."
This week the House Ag Committee will meet Thursday to consider the United States Grain Standards Act Reauthorization Act of 2015 and Mandatory Price Reporting Act of 2015. Lucas said markups will take place this week and potentially the same day. The House Ag Committee is also preparing to reauthorize the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Lucas isn't sure when the markup will take place, but it will come in the near future.
One of the biggest threats to production agriculture has been the 'Water of the US' proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. Lucas said the best way to combat this proposal is to use the appropriations process to stop this proposal from going into effect.
"In a situation like this, where the President would veto any bill that would change current law dealing with the EPA, you use the appropriations process to cut off the money," Lucas said. "If they can't buy paper, if they can't hire people, if they can't have telephones, can't buy computers, you shut 'em off. That's the avenue of attack I think we take this time."
Lucas also serves as Vice Chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. Earlier this year he and Congressman Collin Peterson introduced legislation to reform the Science Advisory Board. This board is a panel of independent experts that reviews the science behind EPA rules. With concerns of scientific bias, Lucas is proposing a more open process where the public can have input on the science and make sure the board is open to anyone who is qualified. Further Lucas said anyone serving on the board must also provide full disclosure their economic interest in the process as well as if they have benefited from a previous study. Lucas said while he can't rewrite the Endangered Species Act, at least he can make sure that the science used to make these rules are real.
Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays caught up with Congressman Lucas in Washington D.C. during the 2015 National Association of Farm Broadcasting Washington Watch fly in. Click or tap on the LISTEN BAR below to hear the full interview.
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