The Oklahoman: Rep. Frank Lucas due credit for work in crafting farm bill

Jan 31, 2014 Issues: Agriculture, Economy and Jobs

The Oklahoman
By: Editorial Writers
January 31, 2014

In saying the country needs “consistent, conservative leadership,” the man who would like to replace Rep. Frank Lucas in Congress implies that Lucas is neither consistent nor conservative. His work in shaping a new farm bill suggests otherwise.

Lucas, R-Cheyenne, steadily and consistently guided the bill through negotiations that more than once threatened to fall apart. Given the partisan factions that have developed and strengthened in recent years, producing this compromise farm bill was “almost a miracle,” said Lucas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

The farm bill won't satisfy many conservatives because of its price tag — $96 billion per year over the next decade. But Lucas says the bill will save about $23 billion during that time (the Congressional Budget Office estimates savings at $17 billion), and it includes needed reforms to the food stamp and farm subsidy programs.

The $8.6 billion that would be cut from food stamps isn't close to the $40 billion in cuts that the House wanted, but it's more than double the $4 billion sought by the

Democratic-controlled Senate. Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., called the bill “an attack on poor people,” a critique that indicates it has some merit.

The bill also would end direct cash payments to landowners, a controversial, $4.5 billion-per-year practice in which checks often wind up in the pockets of people who no longer farm. What conservative could argue with that change?

Lucas has been trying since late 2012 to get a new bill signed into law. This one has gained approval in the House and needs to clear the Senate before going to the president, so it isn't a done deal. But the fact there is even a farm bill to vote on is significant.

Lucas can defend himself regarding his conservative bona fides. His work on the farm bill is to be commended. It's a reminder that compromising once in a while in order to conduct the people's business is still possible in gridlocked Washington.