Nov. 1 is the date the leaders of the Agriculture Committees have circled to get a detailed list of 2012 Farm Policy suggestions to the deficit reduction Super Committee. Senate Agriculture Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Ranking Member Pat Roberts, R-Kan.; and House Agriculture Chair Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., are working to come up with $23 billion in savings from ag programs to contribute to the $1.2 trillion the Super Committee is tasked with finding.
"We've been in discussions about how you would turn that into real policy," Lucas said. "How you come up with a way to provide a safety net that is functional in all regions and all commodity groups using crop insurance and some sort of revenue assurance is the challenge that the four of us are discussing. How do you come up with a way to continue to meet the needs of rural America and production ag and do it with the dollars that are available."
Lucas says they aren't close to a deal yet, and admits it will be a real challenge to deliver a full Farm Bill to the Super Committee. He says the window of opportunity to have a package from the ag leadership included in the overall Super Committee legislation is tight, backing off slightly from that Nov. 1 date and simply saying legislative language would have to be in place by early November.
"There is no guarantee that this can be done in a workable fashion," Lucas said. "And I will not be a part of an effort that excludes regions of the country. Everyone has to be treated in an equitable fashion in this bill if there is going to be a bill."
Another priority for Lucas is providing some certainty to producers and while it's a fragile situation he encourages farmers and ranchers to take part in the process.
"Understand that in production ag we are going to do our part in addressing the national debt; continue to send your input through your organizations and individually, and understand that we are trying to do the best we possibly can," Lucas said. "Hopefully something can happen but do not be surprised if in this set of circumstances it is just not possible to get it done."
That would mean the Ag Committees would end up writing the 2012 Farm Bill under more normal conditions. But the opportunity to lock in the baseline for agriculture over the next five years or longer is appealing to Lucas and is what he sees as the best possible outcome.