He said the possibility of getting a farm bill to the Super Committee by the November 1 deadline is “about fifty-fifty.”

Lucas said direct payments represent a big target. “The program is constantly under pressure from the national media and colleagues in both the House and the Senate. The direct payment program has opponents from both the hard right and the hard left and those further away from rural America.”

He said a group of freshman House members “came here to reduce spending and they don’t care where they reduce it. And a number of nervous senators are running for re-election.

Lucas said he may be “the last defender of direct payments in Washington. It’s the least distorting within WTO.”

He says programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program, which “pays producers to grow grass — are considered good, but with direct payments we maintain the ability to produce food and that’s bad. It makes no sense.

“Maintaining the productive capacity of agriculture in this country is as important as maintaining the ability to produce ICBMs (inter-continental ballistic missiles).”

Lucas said members of both House and Senate ag committees, along with input from commodity organizations, are looking at options to replace direct payments and maintain some kind of safety net. Some program featuring revenue assurance seems most likely.

“But the farm bill is still about raising food and fiber to feed and clothe the country and the world,” Lucas said. “We have to keep farm in the farm bill. It has become a feeding program.”

He said commodity programs should not take all the cuts. “We also have to consider conservation and nutrition,” he said. “Some colleagues see nutrition as ‘carved in stone,’ but we still have to keep products on the shelves or nutrition programs have nothing to buy.”

Lucas believes a farm bill “should work for everybody — cotton in West Texas and corn in Iowa. Our challenge is to maintain equity in every part of the farm bill and also within commodities and regions.”

He said the Renewable Fuel Standard already gives one commodity a “huge advantage.”

Several forum participants, representing key leadership from Texas’ broad-based farm and ranch interests, as well as critical agencies and educational units, expressed concern for a safety net that relies on historical or olympic yields and commodity prices instead of a consistent, if minimal, revenue floor.