BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. LUCAS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I rise today in support of H.R. 6233, which provides disaster aid to livestock and other producers.
I am sure all of my colleagues are keenly aware of what is happening all across this great country. A drought of epic proportions is gripping a large majority of the Nation, and it is endangering vast areas of agriculturally productive land. The map behind me illustrates just how widespread and how bad this drought really is. Just yesterday, in my home State of Oklahoma, we had temperatures topping out at 115 degrees. Vast areas of productive pastureland are burning up, and our ranchers are in dire need.
But also let's be very clear as to why we are here on the floor today. In 2008, Congress passed a farm bill that did not provide a final year of disaster assistance. I have heard people call this ``extending disaster assistance by a year.'' No. What we are doing is fixing a problem. We are backfilling a hole--or fixing a deficiency.
I'm not here to point fingers. I was elected to fix problems. We have a drought. We don't have a disaster program, and I am here to provide a solution. Now, in past years, we might just wave our hands and declare this to be emergency spending, but we tend not to do that anymore, thank goodness. This bill pays for itself. Not only does it pay for itself, but it gives more than $250 million to deficit reduction. To me, that sounds like fixing a problem.
Amazingly, that's not the end of the story.
Some people do not like how we paid for the bill. Quite frankly, I don't either. I was the subcommittee chairman for conservation programs in 2002 when we gave an extra $17 billion to conservation programs. I am a proponent of voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs, but let me give you a little history on EQIP funding.
Ten years ago, in fiscal year 2002, we authorized $200 million in EQIP spending. In fiscal year 2009, we authorized $1.34 billion, and for fiscal year 2013, we authorized $1.75 billion. Yes, we are cutting real dollars: $350 million will not go to our farmers and ranchers to help comply with the enormous regulations facing them. But, at the end of the day, this will still be the largest amount of money ever spent on the EQIP program, seven times what we spent in 2002.
The other offset is the CSP program, which was vastly, I might note for the record, improved in 2008. For those of you here in 2008 who voted for the farm bill, the CSP program in the House bill had zero dollars when it left the House. In the just-passed Ag Committee farm bill, we limited CSP to 9 million acres. I greatly respect the conservation community, but to hear them say we are destroying conservation programs could not be farther from the truth.
You will also hear people complain that this isn't the full farm bill. My priority remains to get a 5-year farm bill on the books and to put those policies into place.
But the most pressing business before us today is to provide disaster assistance to those producers impacted by drought conditions who are currently exposed. It is as simple as that. There is a problem out there. Let's fix it.
Let me address the farm bill that my colleagues seem to either love or hate or love to hate or hate to love. The bill is not perfect. No legislation is. We can spend our time trying to chip away at the Federal deficit $1 million at a time, coming down to the floor on every appropriations bill, or we can spend our time writing opinion pieces for The Wall Street Journal, or we can do something about it. The farm bill that passed out of my committee, the Agriculture Committee, saves $35 billion. Let me repeat that: $35 billion.
Tell me another piece of legislation that has bipartisan support and a chance to pass the United States Senate that saves that much money. My friends on my side of the aisle will say we don't cut enough while, my friends on the other side of the aisle will say we cut too much. This is the perfect case of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. I believe in the legislative process. I believe in letting the House work its will. We did it in the House Agriculture Committee, and we can do it here, too.
Mr. Speaker, let me say again: I am committed to giving certainty to our farmers. I plan to work towards the goal when we get back in September, but we are here today to fix a problem. Let's do it without partisan bickering. There's a disaster happening out there. Let's give the tools to our ranchers who are the most exposed. The bill is paid for. Let's do what the American people sent us here to do: fix problems. I urge my colleagues to join me in voting for H.R. 6233.
With that, I reserve the balance of my time.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. LUCAS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the remainder of my time.
Mr. Speaker and my colleagues, I think the bill we address today is very straightforward. We are going to help a group of producers who, when the '08 farm bill passed, thought they had something they could depend on, but because of budget issues, the 5th year is not funded. We need to help them by fulfilling our commitment that what we said would be there will be there. We do it in a responsible way. We do it in a way that does not truly affect the dollars going to additional conservation programs, based on recent years.
But my colleague's right. This addresses an issue that matters to producers who, for the last 10 months and for the next approximately 2 months, are not able to use a program they thought would be there. But the underlying issue still is passing a comprehensive 5-year farm bill; a farm bill that is such that all commodities and all regions can participate; a farm bill that will provide certainty; a farm bill that will make sure that the food and fiber that meet the needs of American consumers and, yes, consumers around the world can be on the books.
My friend and I have worked very hard, and we have made more progress this year than many pundits would have ever given us credit for, but we're not quite there yet. We may not exactly agree on every footstep to get there, but we agree we have to get there. Let's take care of the folks who are hurting today, and let's work to get that farm bill process completed.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to pass H.R. 6233, and I yield back the balance of my time.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT