The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 2, 2013

Lucas pleased with farm bill extension

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep Frank Lucas was pleased legislation approved by Congress included an extension of the 2008 farm bill.

Lucas, R-Okla., is chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, which approved its version of the new farm bill in July. However, House Speaker John Boehner never brought the bill to a vote in the full House. The Senate passed its version of the farm bill in June.

“I am pleased the House passed H.R. 8, the American Taxpayer Relief Act, on Tuesday, which provides permanent tax relief for families, farmers and small businesses, and prevents an enormous tax increase on all Americans,” Lucas said in a prepared statement.

He also liked that the bill approved the farm bill extension.

“This bill also provides a one-year extension of the 2008 farm bill, which gives agricultural producers certainty and allows the agriculture committees in Congress to continue working on a five-year comprehensive farm bill,” Lucas said.

One of Lucas’ colleagues on the House Agriculture Committee, though, was not happy about Congress just passing an extension.

Minnesota U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson said Wednesday he’s so upset he won’t work on a new version without assurances from congressional leaders it will get a vote.

The full House never took a floor vote on a five-year farm bill, that passed out of the House Agriculture Committee with bipartisan support. The plan was projected to reduce spending on Agriculture Department programs by $35 billion over 10 years. But Boehner said it didn’t have enough votes to pass because some Republicans wanted to see deeper cuts to food stamps.

Peterson told The Associated Press he and his staff were writing to Boehner and other House leaders expressing frustration over what he called lack of respect for the committee’s hard work. He said he would demand a guarantee that if the committee passes a farm bill in 2013, it will be allowed to come to the floor where representatives can fight out any disagreements over the details.

“If they will not give me that assurance, I am not interested in writing a farm bill,” Peterson said.

Peterson said he discussed his frustrations with Lucas and that Lucas told him he couldn’t write a farm bill without Peterson’s support.

The bill passed Tuesday night to avert the tax increases and spending cuts known as the “fiscal cliff” extends current farm bill programs for just nine months, and averts a potential spike in milk prices that could have happened if the current dairy program had been allowed to expire. It does not contain a broader overhaul of dairy policy Peterson authored, which was in both the House committee’s farm bill and the version that passed the full Senate with bipartisan support in June.

Agriculture committee leaders in both chambers tried to get a comprehensive five-year farm bill along the lines of the House and Senate bills included in the final fiscal deal, but their arguments that it actually would help cut federal spending went nowhere. The committees will have to start over this year.

Peterson predicted Congress may end up passing a series of one-year farm bill extensions if nothing changes.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also expressed displeasure no complete farm bill was passed.

“I am pleased that Congress passed needed middle class tax relief and continued unemployment insurance protection for 2 million unemployed Americans,” Vilsack said. “However, while I am relieved that the agreement reached prevents a spike in the price of dairy and other commodities, I am disappointed Congress has been unable to pass a multi-year reauthorization of the Food, Farm and Jobs bill to give rural America the long-term certainty they need and deserve.”