In a time-honored tradition in the U.S. House of Representatives, the official portrait of Rep. Frank Lucas, the former chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, was recently unveiled and accepted into the House collection. It will join the ranks of others in the committee hearing rooms including those of Sen. Pat Roberts, Larry Combest, and Rep. Collin Peterson – all friends of the American farmer, all seasoned veterans of the grueling farm bill process having served as chairmen during the 1996, 2002, and 2008 Farm Bills, respectively.
In a first for such an event, a video presentation highlighted the leadership of Rep. Lucas and the efforts of him and others in getting a new farm bill signed into law. Leave it to the magic of video to boil down into 10 minutes a process that spanned nearly three years, entailed 40 Congressional hearings, multiple markups and floor debates in both the House and the Senate, and a conference committee that negotiated what became the Agricultural Act of 2014.
Now that we’re more than a year away from passage, it’s a timely reminder of why the agriculture community has to stick together. Inexplicably, those who have devoted their lives and livelihoods to producing our national food and fiber supply have more than a few enemies in Washington.
“You just assume everyone understands your way of life, but when they don’t you have to take time to break down the basics,” explained Rep. Markwayne Mullin in the video.
As a result, we cannot afford any animosity within our own ranks. It is fodder for our foes. It is an excuse for policymakers to cut up what remains of the farm safety net. It is a deterrent for recruiting the next generation of leaders on Capitol Hill and beyond.
As Lucas recently said, “we’ve got a farm bill in place for five, but every year for the full five, we have to defend the provisions in that process.” Our efforts to educate Members of Congress, their staff, and others cannot end simply because a new law is in place. And, unity among agricultural leaders will be necessary going forward in order to protect the farm bill and preserve its risk management tools.
Just like in farming, the work never ends despite the change of seasons. We must continue to plant and harvest the seeds of support for farm policy.