Congressman Steve King says he’s hoping a “working farmer” who’ll be taking over as chairman of the House Ag Committee will change the focus of the Farm Bill. Congressman Frank Lucas will take over the committee in January when Republicans take control of the U.S. House.
“We’ll have an active farmer as the chairman of the ag committee for the first time in quite a while. Frank’s a good friend. He’s a very smart man. He’s a low-key individual and hasn’t gotten a lot of publicity, but he’s a cattleman and a wheat and I think soybean and sometimes corn farmer down in Oklahoma and I’ve got a really good working relationship with him,” King says.
“He’s a working farmer with the right kind of instincts.” King, a Republican from Kiron, ran an earth-moving company before he went to congress, where he represents one of the most ag-intensive districts in the country. “Some of the politics that has emerged into the farm bill, hopefully Frank Lucas will keep that out. I’ll certainly be helping him do that and I think the tone of it will be focused a lot more towards agriculture and perhaps less towards the nutrition aspects which right now consume about 70 percent of the funding that’s authorized in the Farm Bill.”
The Iowa Farm Bureau has advocated a shift away from direct federal payments to farmers, using those funds instead to help farmers buy a “revenue assurance” policy.”I’m not one of those people that advocates that because direct payments are the only hook that we have from the federal government’s standpoint to provide a direct incentive for soil conservation and soil stewardship,” King says. “And so I’d like to change the name of ‘direct payments’ to ‘conservation compliance payments.'”
King says if cuts must be made in the Farm Bill, it shouldn’t be in the area of direct payments to farmers. “I’ll be working a lot harder at trying to reduce the funding that goes into the nutrition side of this than I will be at reducing the funding that goes into agriculture, but I will say that there’s an argument made that we need to get government under control and it needs to apply to the agriculture budget equally to the other budgets and I understand that,” King says. “If we have to take cuts in agriculture, this is a pretty good time to do it. We should be feeling good about where we are with the per acre profits we’ve seen in the last few months, especially.”
King is a member of the House Ag Committee. About 67% of the spending outlined in the 2008 Farm Bill was dedicated to nutrition programs, like the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” which used to be known as food stamps. About 15 percent of Farm Bill spending went toward farm commodity programs