January 29, 2020

Farm Bill; Ag Economy; EPA; Immigration; and, Climate

Farm Bill

House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) spoke yesterday with Ramey Cozart on KKBS radio (Guymon, Okla.) and was asked: “What’s the No. 1 thing affecting production agriculture right now?”

In response, Chairman Lucas provided a general overview of the economic and policy landscape by breaking down the outlook into short, medium and long-term perspectives.

Well, in the short term it’s still weather issues, for the next few weeks and months.  Is it going to continue to rain on the Corn Belt?  Are we going to stay green for the rest of the fall?  Will we be able to put a wheat crop in the ground?

In the longer run, the real question is about the farm bill.  We’re operating now in the sixth year of a five-year farm bill.  Will I be able to go to conference in September?  Can I work out the differences with the Senate and get a farm bill on the books?  Because remember, while most farmers and ranchers know that the biggest part of the money in the farm bill is food stamps now, nonetheless the farm bill is the commodity title, it’s crop insurance, it’s the conservation programs, it’s CRP and rural development and farm credit, all those things.

“The farm bill is very important, especially if Mother Nature decides that the last few weeks of green is just temporary and we go back to drought conditions next year and the year after, or world markets take a hiccup, the Chinese stop buying imports, what that does to demand, or just a whole myriad of things.  So putting the farm bill on the books is, in the intermediate, the next most important thing.”

Chairman Lucas explained that, “And if you just want to talk about a long ways down the road, the trade agreements that are going on, because right now the President’s proposed, and it’s a legitimate thing, proposed trying to negotiate with the European Union a trade agreement to open up imports and exports to a greater degree with the Europeans and with the Pacific Rim countries, they’re trying to negotiate that.  That’s all the way from New Zealand around to Japan, for instance.

But the thing on trade agreements is it’s not just trade—is it fair?  By that are the tariffs really the same for stuff going in and out of the country?  Will the people we deal with in other countries standardize what they refer to as phytosanitary standards?  Will they grade and deal with bug and pest and variety issues in a fair and equitable fashion?  If trade is fair, these trade agreements, if they can be concluded, in the long run will open up more markets to us, but it’s got to be fair.  Not just free, it’s got to be fair.

So in the short run it’s the weather, intermediate it’s passing the farm bill, in the long run it’s still these trade deals with the rest of the world.”

As a side note, Katie Smith reported yesterday at Roll Call Online that Chairman Lucas was tied for fifth in a “top ten tally members of Congress with the most town halls scheduled this month.”