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Public Statements

Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LUCAS. Madam Chairman, we hear a lot from the proponents of this amendment about moving American companies to Mexico and to Canada. But that has nothing to do with the price of sugar. It has everything to do with labor costs, health care costs, and trying to get every penny out of the American farmer.

Have any of you seen the price of sugar, cakes or cookies plummet over the last few years as sugar prices have decreased by 55 percent? No, you haven't.

You will hear a lot from the proponents of this amendment about the high prices of sugar--so high indeed that restaurants give it away and that you can buy a five-pound bag of sugar for almost nothing. The idea that adopting this amendment is going to somehow create a free market for sugar is ludicrous.

The world sugar market is one of the most distorted markets in the world. Adopting this amendment or even repealing sugar policy would do nothing but subject the U.S. to that distorted market even more than we are today, cost a lot of farmers their livelihoods, and cost this country an industry with all the jobs and economic activity that go with it. Let's be quite clear, the U.S. is already one of the largest sugar importers in the world.

The Acting CHAIR. The time of the gentleman has expired.

Mr. PETERSON. I yield the gentleman 1 minute.

Mr. LUCAS. The second argument is that we are all of a sudden going to have cheaper sugar if we adopt this amendment.

What bothers me the most about this argument is that it was made when sugar prices were 55 percent higher, and it is made just the same when prices are in the tank. How cheap is cheap enough for those who are backing this amendment?

They claim that consumers are being bilked by the high price of sugar, but have any of our colleagues noticed a drop in the price of candy bars as manufacturers faithfully pass along to consumers the savings from a 55 percent drop in sugar prices? Of course not.

Sugar policy has operated at zero cost to the taxpayers for 10 years now. Our farmers are efficient and competitive. Consumers in this country enjoy cheaper sugar than anywhere else in the world, and sugar users enjoy a reliable source of safe sugar.

Candy makers are reporting strong profits as sugar farmers and processors struggle. Neither today's climate nor the climate of 55 percent higher prices was caused by sugar policy. It was caused by conditions in a distorted market. All sugar policy does is provide a low-level safety net so farmers can repay their loan principal plus interest and farm another day.

I urge my colleagues to reject the amendment.


Mr. LUCAS. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Colleagues, the process of crafting this farm bill has entailed much effort by the committee. We've looked at everything within our jurisdictions. We've come up with ways of saving money and reforming things and making things more efficient across the board in every title. Let me touch, for just a moment, on the nutrition title.

The committee agreed to $20.5 billion in savings: ending categorical eligibility, compelling States to the tune of $8 billion worth of savings to make adjustments in how they address LIHEAP. We have gone a tremendous distance in a bipartisan way to achieve the first real reform since 1996.

Now, I appreciate my colleagues' efforts to try and increase those savings, but I say to you that the number in the bill is workable, that it is something that we can achieve, that it is something through which I believe--and we don't all necessarily see eye to eye on this--we will still allow those folks who are qualified under Federal law to receive the help they need, that they deserve.

Please turn this amendment back. Please move forward with the reforms we have. Let's do things that we've not been able to do since 1996. Let's not go so far that nothing is the end result. Defeat the amendment. Support the bill. Let us move forward.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. LUCAS. Mr. Speaker, I will not dwell on the points made by the good lady, but I would like to take this time to discuss for just a moment the process that we've gone through here and the nature of what we are trying to do in crafting another 5-year comprehensive farm bill.

We have gone through the most amazing open process in the House Agriculture Committee 2 years in a row, and we achieved consensus.

The bill this year might not be quite the same as the bill last year, and we have gone through, I think, an open process here on the floor where 103 or 104 amendments were considered by this body in open debate and open discussion and recorded votes in once again trying to achieve a consensus.

I know that not everyone has in this final bill exactly what they want. I know some of my very conservative friends think that it doesn't go far enough in the name of reform. I know some of my liberal friends think it goes too far in the name of addressing the needs of people.

But I would say to all of you that ultimately this body has to do its work. Ultimately, we have to move a product that we can go to conference with. Ultimately, we have to work out a consensus with the United States Senate so that we will have a final document that we can all consider together that hopefully the President will sign into law.

Now, I have tried in good faith, working with my ranking member and each and every one of you in every facet of these issues, to achieve that consensus. I have tried, and I hope that you recognize and acknowledge that.

We're at this critical moment. Whether you believe the bill has too much reform or not enough, or you believe it cuts too much or it doesn't cut enough, we have to move this document forward to achieve a common goal, to meet the needs of our citizens. No matter what part of the country, no matter whether they produce the food or consume the food, we have to meet those common needs in a responsible fashion.

I plead to you, I implore you to put aside whatever the latest email is or the latest flyer is or whatever comment or rumor you've heard from people near you or around you. Assess the situation. Look at the bill. Vote with me to move this forward. If you care about the consumers, the producers, the citizens of this country, move this bill forward. If it fails today, I can't guarantee you that you will see in this session of Congress another attempt, but I would assure each and every one of you, whether it's the appropriations process or amendments to other bills, the struggles will go on, but it won't be done in a balanced way.

If you care about your folks, if you care about this institution, if you care about utilizing open order, vote with us, vote with me on final. If you don't, when you leave here they'll just say it's a dysfunctional body, a broken institution full of dysfunctional people. That's not true. You know that's not true.

Cast your vote in a responsible fashion. That's all I can ask.

Thank you, my friends. I yield back the balance of my time.


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