When Congress returns from the August recess - there won't be much time left for the committees to make their recommendations to the super committee tasked with developing a bill to make dramatic spending cuts and potentially dramatic policy changes. House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., notes Oct. 14 is the target date for making recommendations to the super committee. He says his priority is working with Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and the other Ag Committee members to get a grip on this budget process and how to handle the committee's recommendations.
"If this committee cannot come up with the trillions of dollars of savings that were agreed to earlier in the year then there is an automatic sequestration process that will have an automatic set of cuts across the federal budget," Lucas says. "There will be certain things exempted, it appears for instance that CRP might be exempt from sequestration, but things like EQIP would not be. We are trying to work through that to figure out what would be impacted because that impacts what kind of recommendation set we make to the committee."
Based on rough estimations Peterson suggested ahead of the August recess that agriculture might fare better under across-the-board cuts. Lucas is trying to determine if that's the case, but wants hard numbers before a decision is made.
"The bottom line has to be how do you preserve the integrity of federal farm policy," Lucas said. "There are those who do not understand ag policy who say do away with this section or that section of the Farm Bill, but it's all intertwined, so it's not just a simple equation."
If the super committee was to target and eliminate direct payments, Lucas says the House Agriculture Committee would suddenly be faced with having to write a new Farm Bill.
"It all comes down to what the committee recommends," Lucas said. "And remember of the 12 members there's only one real aggie in the whole bunch and that's Senator Baucus from Montana. This group has the power, as long as seven of the 12 members agree to make dramatic recommendations in virtually any part of the federal budget."
Once the super committee makes its recommendations Lucas says all committees will get a chance to discuss and make a recommendation to reject or accept the proposal. It will then go to a vote where the proposal must get the approval of 51 Senators, 218 Representatives and the President to become law.
If the super committee is not able to reach those thresholds, or if reasonable, rational recommendations are made and the framework of the Farm Bill is held together, Lucas says the Ag Committees can work towards a regular Farm Bill under regular order in the spring and summer of 2012. But if dramatic changes are recommended Lucas says the Ag Committees might have to write a new Farm Bill this October or November.