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Lucas Looks Back At Passage Of 2014 Farm Bill

It’s been one year since the House and Senate conference committee came to consensus on the 2014 Agricultural Act. That was followed by passage in both chambers and an eventual signature by President Barack Obama. Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays interviewed Oklahoma Third District Congressman Frank Lucas, the former House Ag Chairman, about that significant milestone. Click on the LISTENBAR below to listen to the full interview.

“Ron, I still think it’s almost a miracle that we actually managed to pass another comprehensive Farm Bill,” Lucas said. “I think it is almost a miracle that we were able to create a Farm Bill that gave choice so all producers, all regions of the country and all the different commodity groups could tailor a safety net that meets their particular needs.”

Getting the 2014 Farm Bill was a long process, spanning two and half years and a lot has changed. From seeing high prices for corn, wheat and soybeans to now having a much different situation on the world market that has caused a dramatic shift in prices. During the process, Lucas he emphasized to his colleagues how important it was get a policy that would provide a safety net for the long haul, as he felt he could not guarantee there will be another Farm Bill.

“We may not have another brand new Farm Bill, ever, but at least we have a Farm Bill that we will be able to extend after the five years, if we can pull the political consensus together,” Lucas said. “Because we are always going to need a safety net. Farmers just have so many things that they can not control in their lives, the weather, the world markets, the tax code. So many things they can not control, you’ve got to have a safety net, because after all you may not need to buy that next widget, you might be able to live without one more TV subscription, but we all have to eat.”

One of the most valuable areas of the 2014 Farm Bill was the Livestock Disaster Assistance programs that were made permanent.   For years, crop farmers have had insurance to protect them and Lucas said the 2014 Agricultural Act gave livestock producers the same opportunity.

“Not to give livestock people anything better than what the crop folks had, but to put us all on the same playing field, Lucas said.

The livestock disaster programs have helped producers in the Southern Great Plains and Midwest who have dealt with drought and wildfires, as well as the devastating October Blizzard in 2013 that killed thousands of cattle in South Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming. This year USDA has paid out over $900 million nationwide. Lucas said that number is very large, but this is in incredible drought and the program payouts are covering 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

While Lucas is no longer the House Ag Chairman, he will continue to work with the new Chairman Michael Conaway of Texas and the whole committee in ensuring the 2014 Farm Bill is properly implemented. Lucas said Conaway intends to review the food stamp program. That is the largest segment in making up 80 percent of the Farm Bill. With the divided political climate in Washington D.C., Lucas does not look for the legislation to be changed. Lucas said he will be evaluating the policy to ensure it is working and begin to look at adjustments and improvements for the next Farm Bill in 2018.

In looking five years down the road, Lucas is not sure if the political climate in Washington D.C. will improve. He sees challenges on both sides of the isle with his Liberal and Conservative colleagues not wanting to spend money on Rural America and not wanting to ensure there is a productive capacity in this country to raise food and fiber.

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