What To Expect in the Next Farm Bill

The clock is ticking on the expiration of the 2002 Farm Bill.  The current legislation, which set federal agriculture policy over six years, is set to expire in 2007.  The legislation has a huge impact on Oklahoma , for everything from commodity payments, to conservation programs, to agricultural trade, and I'm working with producers and other Members of Congress on crafting the 2007 version of the legislation.

On Monday I will bring my Agriculture Subcommittee to El Reno , Oklahoma to hear from Oklahomans who are affected by this legislation, on what programs they think are working, and what they think needs to be changed.

This hearing is one of many the House Agriculture Committee is conducting in anticipation of the rewriting of the Farm Bill, including a dozen outside-the-beltway hearings throughout the country with producers in the farm sector. 

I've already taken a lot of input from producers on this issue.  Although a lot of the details on future budget levels or changes to many of the programs are far from known, and we will still be taking input on this issue over the next year, I have an idea of what many aspects of the next farm bill will look like.

What a change I've seen over the years in the discussions from agriculture producers on what they want in the next farm bill.  In the past, producers have referred to what the farm bill did “to” the farm sector.  Now they talk about what the farm bill does “for” the farm sector. The attitude shift from previous farm bills to the current legislation has been remarkable.

The vast majority of producers I've talked to have said they generally like the programs that have been enacted, but they only want to see more funding for those programs.

So I expect that for the most part the legislation the President signs into law next year will look much like the current law, with minor alterations.

There will be a robust discussion on payment limitations, and we will try to clear up some duplication in conservation programs, but the policy enacted will look much like the policy we have now. 

But the budget situation next year will likely be very different from the budgets we had when writing the 2002 bill.  This tighter budget situation will likely put pressure on the funding level for the new bill, especially from urban lawmakers.

I also predict a greater emphasis will be placed on encouraging renewable fuels.  Congress has already acted to increase the production of renewable fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel.  I believe the next farm bill will go a step further to encourage these renewables, which will increase our U.S. energy diversity as well as provide an additional market for our crops. 

The farm bill debate has begun, but there is still much to be decided on what the next farm bill should look like.  Folks with an interest in the issue can call or write with their ideas or concerns.  Or they can email me by going to my website at www.house.gov/lucas <http://www.house.gov/lucas> and click on “Contact Frank”to leave their input on the farm bill, or on any issue. 

As the clock ticks down for the current farm bill legislation to expire, we will work to refine the current law so that we continue to allow producers the safety net they need, while providing consumers with a the safest and most reliable food supply in the world.  Your input is a vital part of that process.

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