U.S. House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas told the crowd at Commodity Classic in Tampa exactly what they wanted to hear: he understands their business and their needs, he's one of them and he's on their side.
Farmers face a daunting task, he said, in providing food for a growing world population with a growing appetite for better diet, he said, and the U.S. government needs to help farmers succeed at that task, not put up roadblocks to their success.
"When I get back we're having an oversight committee meeting where we are bringing in (EPA) director (Lisa) Jackson to explain whether or not the actions of her agency over the last two years are providing that help."
He said they will ask Jackson three questions: 1) Is EPA following the law? 2) Is EPA making regulatory decisions based on sound science and data? And 2) Is EPA conducting a cost/benefit analysis for the regulations it proposes?
"From what I have heard from all you, when we get through making sure she hears those concerns, I'm thinking she may not be real happy about coming back again and again to talk to our committee," he said to applause from his audience.
Lucas said proposed such as controlling dust on field on rural roads, preventing drift of chemical spray by more than one foot, starting yet another evaluation of atrazine and treating milk spills like oil spills cannot possibly offer more benefits that they cost.
And he won roaring approval from the crowd when he firmly declared "The regulatory assault on America's must stop!"
He referred to U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsak as a "good friend" but said he promises to remind him that the dominant focus of the department should not be on the small number of farmers who produce products for niche groups but on the 210,000 U.S. farmers who provide 80% of the products in the country.
Lucas stressed his Oklahoma roots, his fifth generation history as a family farmer and his understanding of everyday life in farm country.
He told the commodity group representatives in the crowd that he won't promise there won't be pain.
"We would need $7 to $9 billion more just to keep the programs that we have now at current levels," he said. "That is not going to be there, so every program is going to be evaluated. Our goal is to keep those that meet the greatest need."
But he echoed a theme emphasized last week by Sen. Pat Roberts, the ranking Republican on the Senate ag committee, at the Kansas Commodity Classic in Great Bend, Kan.
"We standing willing to do our part," he said. "But ONLY our part."