Representative Frank Lucas (R-OK), chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, told AgriTalk Radio yesterday that the Supreme Court ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act, among other legislative issues, will complicate quick passage of a new farm bill.

Lucas said that following the court’s ruling, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R/VA) quickly announced the House will vote on July 11 to repeal the bill. “The lines are clearly drawn,” Lucas says. “The body that passed this when Speaker Pelosi was in charge  is a body now under speaker Boehner that will vote for repeal.” What the Senate will do is less clear, Lucas added.

Debate on the Affordable Care Act could delay action on the farm bill, Lucas believes. “It makes the farm bill process more complicated, but I’m not sure.”  Lucas plans, nonetheless, to push for debate and passage of a bill through the House. “Let me remind you as a west Oklahoma wheat farmer, I put the seed in the ground and plan on harvesting  a crop,” he said, adding there are numerous factors such as weather and markets that determine whether it is a good year or a bad year.

Lucas says he plans to begin work on marking up the bill on July 11 with Ranking Minority Member Colin Peterson (D-MN). He believes the committee can build a balanced, equitable, bipartisan bill that “achieves the savings necessary to get the attention of our colleagues on the floor of the House.”

However, Lucas expects challenges in accessing floor time to explain and debate the bill before the full House, as it competes for time with other priorities and a vast number of amendments slow the process. He believes though that once the House passes a bill, it will move through conference with the Senate quickly for a final vote by the House and Senate.

But even after a bill passes both houses of Congress and gains the approval of the president, Lucas said legislators will need to assess how much time it will take USDA to absorb the bill’s changes, create rules, train FSA employees on the new rules, develop software, educate constituents, and implement the bill’s provisions. It is getting to the point, he said, where a one-year extension of the current bill could be necessary.  “I have carried, for a year,” he says “a draft copy of an extension in my pocket, which I don’t want to use, but am prepared to use if an extension is in the best interest of the folks back home on the farm,” he concluded.

 

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