Congressman Frank Lucas on the 2012 Farm Bill

image of Congressman Frank Lucas
Oklahoma’s Third District Congressman Frank Lucas

(The National Association of Conservation Districts asked House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, Oklahoma’s Third District Congressman, about conservation, the Farm Bill and how districts can play a role in policy decisions in Washington, D.C. His response is reprinted here from TheResource, Summer 2011, publication with permission from NACD and from the office of Congressman Lucas. )

Congress strengthened its commitment to conservation in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills. We created new ways for producers and conservation organizations to achieve conservation initiatives.

Congress increased conservation spending in the 2002 Farm Bill by 80 percent, which represented an increased commitment of $17 billion over ten years. We increased our commitment to important programs like the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) while also creating new programs like the Conservation Security Program (CSP) to increase participation in conserving practices.

In the 2008 Farm Bill we expanded on the conservation title with an additional commitment of $4 billion over 10 years. The new conservation title included new regional and cooperative partnership programs, as well as the reauthorization and increased spending of current programs.

Farmers and ranchers, through the assistance and incentives of these programs, have voluntarily worked to help reduce soil erosion, increase wetlands, improve water quality, and preserve farmland and wildlife habitat. The environmental gains achieved are a testament to our producers who truly are the most dedicated conservationists.

This farm bill gives the Committee an opportunity to prioritize conservation programs that are working, change programs that are obviously broken, and look at the programs as a whole to see if there are any overlapping missions and goals. We, as a Committee, should take a serious look at streamlining the current conservation programs so that conservation dollars can be utilized more efficiently.

I urge you to work with me to show how important conservation programs are to other members of Congress on and off the committee, so that we can have a conservation title that we can all be proud of.  During these tough fiscal times, writing the next farm bill will be a challenge.  Every program will be on the table and every program must stand on its own merit.

The agriculture sector will have the responsibility to identify its priorities – what programs are important – and then relay these issues to their own representatives and other members of the Agriculture Committee. NACD was instrumental in this process during the last farm bill and the Committee will again be looking to your leadership as the next bill takes form.

Additionally, with nearly 100 new Members of Congress, who may be unfamiliar with the local benefits achieved through conservation programs, there will be a need to inform them about American agriculture.  

Beyond preparing for the reauthorization of the 2012 Farm Bill, the Committee’s top priority is aggressive oversight of federal agencies to protect production agriculture and rural economies from regulatory overreach.