He said funding for the conservation reserve program would be reduced—cutting acreage from 32 million to 24 million. “It’s a voluntary program,” he said, and an important one. “From my perspective, I cannot make Mother Nature cooperate, but I can help prevent us from engaging in policy mistakes of the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘80s. I’ll work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to develop policies that don’t repeat past mistakes.”

Lucas said obstacles exist outside Congress, people who say, “We don’t need a farm safety net or subsidies for crop insurance. They are wrong. They say it doesn’t matter where food comes from, and they complain about levels of inspection for food items.

“U.S. agricultural producers have wonderful advantages and we have to preserve American agriculture. The safety net matters. We now have to show our bankers that we use risk management tools. The bankers demand it. So the tools have to be there.

“A real challenge is knowing how much we have to spend and stretching it to do what we have to do to provide an effective safety net.”

Preserving crop insurance, even though details may differ, is one area of agreement in the House and the Senate, Lucas said

He said watching the farm bill go down in defeat earlier in the year was a devastating blow. “There is no more painful experience than to lose your bill on the floor of the House,” he said. “I appealed to my colleagues to do the right thing and to show that we are not as dysfunctional as everyone believes.”

The vote failed.

But three weeks later the House passed, on a party line vote, a “farm bill only farm bill” that can be debated in conference committee.