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Can Divided House Pass Farm Bill?

It would certainly be easy to become depressed over actions of the House after its stunning rejection of the Farm Bill. There was such anticipation about the House continuing the bipartisanship of the Senate in passing this long awaited legislation. If I had been more attentive and listened to what some of my ag friends were saying, I probably could have foreseen that this bill wasn’t going anywhere. There were too many forces at work for it to have passed. It came down to many of the liberals in the House not wanting to vote for such a big cut in the food stamp program. And there were too many Republican defectors who simply didn’t appreciate ag’s importance to the economy.

For that reason, we have to hand it to House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas who continues to take the high road. He says this Farm Bill will somehow get passed and head to conference – no matter how disappointing the recent vote was. In a recent report, Lucas said the key to passing any Farm Bill is to concentrate on the moderate members in both parties. He says the extreme liberals and conservatives are too unpredictable, and that’s why they may have defected on this most recent vote. It’s the folks in the middle who can be counted on to support a workable Farm Bill.

To hear Lucas say this makes sense. The Oklahoman has never been known to criticize any of his House colleagues even when they abandon ship on him. He doesn’t discourage easily. So, once again, he’s being quite optimistic and claims that he and his staff will analyze how members voted – and then re-tool the bill in hopes of gaining passage this summer. We applaud him for this kind of attitude.

This vote in the House reminds me again of an earlier time when ag legislation was bipartisan. It was the one issue in Congress where partisan politics didn’t affect the outcome. Those days are over, I’m afraid. But if Chairman Lucas is to be believed, he will find those votes among the moderates in the House – and he will get this bill passed. All it takes is 218 votes. Lucas says he “will get it done….but I’m just not sure how crooked the trail is going to be.”

Here’s hoping it happens fast.