Audio courtesy of Ron Hays, Radio Oklahoma: Congressman Frank Lucas
Former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas spent part of his Thursday with other lawmakers at a White House meeting, with President Donald Trump, discussing items important to agriculture.
Congressman Lucas says he was impressed with the President’s eagerness to talk about a variety of agriculture issues: “You know, when you get an hour and a half with the President on a single subject, that’s pretty impressive and says something about his concern for rural America.”
Congressman Lucas says legislators talked about a broad set of topics, including: getting a farm bill complete and signed into law, the talks with China and tariffs, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). He says the President believes great progress is getting done on NAFTA, without giving a specific timeline on completing those talks. Hays then asks Lucas how the United States could get back into the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“All I know Ron is that the President is a negotiator – he’s a wheeler dealer, dealing with people, calling their bluff, moving the ball around. He didn’t become a multi-billionaire by not making a deal in his best interest. I have to give him the benefit of the doubt to make a deal in our best interest,” Lucas said.
The conversation moved on to the 2018 Farm Bill proposal unveiled by House Agriculture Committee Chair Michael Conaway on Thursday. Clearly, there is tension between the Chairman and Ranking Member Colin Peterson (D – 7th District MN) over the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) reforms that Chairman Conaway is touting – as farm broadcaster Mike Adams reported on Friday that Peterson told him he had not talked to the Chairman in four weeks – and called the Conaway proposal a “joke and a sham.” Lucas took an optimistic approach that a farm bill can be worked on and passed out of the Committee this coming week.
“Being a former Chairman of the Ag Committee, I have a role kinda like someone’s old Uncle, so I spend time talking to everybody. I spend time working with everybody on both sides of the room, both sides of the Committee to move the process forward,” Lucas said.
While Lucas did not specifically say he had talked with Colin Peterson, he said: “I am visiting with both Democrats and Republicans” and urging them to discuss the base bill in the Committee, make improvements and move it on to the floor so major issues within the bill can be voted on by all 435 members of the House. The major issues he was pointing to were mostly the SNAP reforms championed by Conaway. Hays and Lucas worked their way through the conservation and safety net parts of the bill, along with new money found to start modernizing and enlarging a Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine bank.
The former Chairman is pleased that the groundbreaking work in 2013 and 2014 on the Commodity Title will be the basis of the Commodity title in 2018 with Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) still offering the safety net to producers – with producers getting a chance to rethink which program is best for them.
Congressman Lucas remains hopeful that a bill will move out of the Committee this coming week and get floor time soon after. He is concerned about missing the window of opportunity and not getting a new farm bill in place by the end of September.