With the future of a farm bill up in the air, people at the South Dakota State Fair had a chance to hear from some of the leaders working on the measure.
Rep. Kristi Noem held a town hall meeting with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., Friday.
Congress has about a month before the current farm bill, which was already extended a year, expires. The Senate has passed a version of the farm bill. The House has passed one without a food stamps component included. Lucas says he expects a food stamps bill to pass the House next month.
Lucas spoke to listeners as a lawmaker but told them he’s a farmer himself.
"I'm one of you and what we do has to go on as long as there're people on this planet and I happen to hope that's a long time," Lucas said.
Lucas says the climate in Washington, D.C. right now makes passing a farm bill difficult. Disagreements within and between parties on this issue is one obstacle. There are also many groups offering different perspectives because the bill includes many parts from food production to food stamps.
That came through at Friday’s town hall.
"Is crop insurance going to continue to be highly subsidized as it is now without the concern of having conservation compliance as one of the main ingredients," former South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Secretary John Cooper said.
"If we start taking and pulling this federal crop away from us as producers, it's going to put us in a position. And at some point folks when we have to sit in line for food, then the light bulb will come on," Lake Preston farmer Paul Casper said.
Lucas told those at the meeting that issues such as those will be worked out in committee meetings. He isn't sure exactly how the bill will look at this point.
Both Lucas and Noem said they'd like to pass a permanent back-up plan in case farm bills in the future don't pass. As it sits now, farm policy would revert back decades, which could have adverse effects on the public in general.
“If we don’t do a farm bill like we have in the past, that we at least have policy that won’t put all my guys out of business,” Noem said.
An audience member said he feared that move would take leverage away that could be used against lawmakers not wanting to pass a farm bill.