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Election could affect farm bill timing

DANIEL LOOKER 11/06/2012 @ 8:14am Business Editor

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) still wants to pass a farm bill in the lame duck session of Congress after the election, but it could be pushed into 2013, he said shortly before voting began. If that happens, he expects deeper cuts.

"It still comes down to the election whether we have several weeks after the election or a few weeks," Lucas told Agriculture.com Monday evening in Stillwater, Oklahoma, where Lucas was at Oklahoma State University for an advance screening of a new Ken Burns public television documentary, The Dust Bowl.

Lucas said he agrees with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who has said several times that if former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney wins, he is likely to want to wait until he takes office in January to work with Congress on major tax legislation.

"I think that's reasonable," Lucas said.

If the lame duck session of Congress decides to pass a short-term extension of Bush era tax cuts, the farm bill is likely to be rolled into 2013, he said.

That doesn't mean that Lucas wants to wait until next year.

"Peterson (Representative Collin Peterson, his committee's ranking Democrat) and I both agree, this needs to be done," Lucas said.

If the farm bill is pushed into 2013, Lucas said greater cuts in its spending are possible. The version passed by the Senate last spring would trim farm bill spending by $23.6 billion over 10 years and the bill the House Agriculture Committee passed in the summer trims $35 billion.

And who wins the White House doesn't mean the ag committees wouldn't escape bigger cuts, Lucas believes.

With the size of the deficit, he said, "I suspect either one of them is going to say we have to take a harder look."

If the lame duck session does address the farm bill, Lucas said he believes he would need about four days for floor debate to have a vote in the House on his committee's version of a farm bill.

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