Congressman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., Ranking Member of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture, says cap and trade legislation is “99 percent dead” but warns that the Environmental Protection Agency could regulate greenhouse gas emissions without legislation.

Lucas, speaking in a town hall setting during the Oklahoma Peanut Expo in Lone Wolf, said agriculture does not want cap and trade and that “EPA regulation is not right.”

Oklahoma’s Third District representative said at least two bills under consideration would limit or bar EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. One would disallow the regulation for two years; the other would permanently disallow EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. “If it passes over the leadership in both houses I think the administration will back off,” he said.

Lucas did not spare his own party from criticism. “It has been a long time since we had an administration that supported agriculture. I voted to override the Bush veto of the 2008 farm bill.

He said the House Ag Committee faces the daunting task of “trying to work with people who don’t understand agriculture. We still have the challenge to maintain rural America.”

He said so far Congress has prevailed against attempts to cut big chunks out of the farm budget. “The latest budget proposal would cut $1.5 billion from the safety net and reduce crop insurance support by $6 billion.”

Conservation programs such as EQIP and CRP also have been recommended for budget cuts. “We will turn those recommendations back,” Lucas said.

He expressed uncertainty about a proposal from Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., that farm bill hearings begin this spring and summer for 2013 legislation. “Peterson says the budget will be after everything. We expect to come under assault.”

Lucas would prefer that any near-term farm bill hearings concentrate on implementing the 2008 law. “We need to use 2010 hearings to determine how the money is being spent. We need to justify every penny we spend and identify what our real needs are.”

He said other issues deserve attention. He pointed to a recent World Trade Organization ruling that allows Brazil to take punitive action against the United States, results of the claim against the U.S. cotton program.

“WTO is about to tear cotton limb from limb. Brazil gets punitive damages that may include copyright and patent suspensions for a period of time. Brazil has the most amazing third world economy I’ve ever seen. They are playing a game.”

Despite the challenges and lack of understanding Lucas finds in Washington, he contends that the House Ag Committee remains “the most non-partisan and bipartisan committee in Congress.”

He said 75 percent of the farm legislation funds go to nutrition and that a good percentage of committee members are interested only in those programs. “About 40 percent are here for the agriculture titles.”

He said he has watched Ag Committee chairmen from both parties arrange debate to deal with the nutrition programs first. “After that’s taken care of, about 40 percent of the committee members leave and the rest of us stay and work on agriculture.”

Lucas said he’s uncertain if Congress can pass a health care reform bill, even using reconciliation tactics, which requires only a simple majority to pass. “We have a chance of holding the line.”

He said the country “doesn’t have the money for national health care.”

email: rsmith@farmpress.com