Highlights of Chairman Lucas Opening Statement

At the first formal meeting of the Farm Bill Conference Committee Wednesday - Chairman Frank Lucas made it clear that the committee has a responsibility to put policy in place that is good for farmers, ranchers, consumers and those who have hit difficult times. When the committee reaches consensus - Lucas says the final production will provide major savings to the Treasury, significant reforms to policy and yet still provide a safety net for not only the production of food and fiber - but also to ensure Americans have enough food to eat. Lucas said a safety net must be written with bad times in mind. According to Lucas - a farm bill shouldn't guarantee that the good times are the best - but rather that the bad times are manageable. He said a safety net should provide flexibility and choice to meet the unpredictable nature of farming. Lucas said the House farm bill reflects a belief in giving farmers and ranchers - no matter where they live or what they grow - something they can count on to help mitigate risks inherent in this business. To that end - he said livestock SURE and crop insurance take on great significance.

Lucas said crop insurance is both an essential risk management tool for producers that should be preserved and a sound investment to ensure a stable and affordable food supply. He doesn't favor applying layers of regulatory bureaucracy to it. Lucas said conservation compliance is already the law of the land - and tying the measure to crop insurance is a redundant regulatory burden on people who are already the best caretakers of our natural resources and who already have conservation practices in place. According to Lucas - providing regulatory relief to producers was another priority in the House bill. He also noted the GIPSA rule first proposed over three years ago and the pending World Trade Organization case associated with mandatory country of origin labeling as issues he hopes to address. As for reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - Lucas said he is going to look to find common ground between the House and Senate-passed farm bills to preserve the important safety net for those most in need.

Lucas stated no one taking part in this effort will like everything in the bill. But he said they have a responsibility to reach consensus and do what is best for all of agriculture and rural America. He urged conferees to work together to get their work done and give certainty and sound policy to the nation's agricultural producers, deliver taxpayers billions of dollars in deficit reduction and provide consumers the affordable and reliable food supply they have grown accustomed to.

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