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Lucas, Peterson working on Ag appropriations bill changes

By JERRY HAGSTROM

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., appear to be working together to oppose some elements of the fiscal year 2012 House Agriculture appropriations bill as passed by the House Appropriations Committee last week, but Peterson also appears likely to take the opposition farther than Lucas will go.

In radio interviews, Lucas has signaled that he will try to work with the Republican leadership to oppose amendments to the bill that would affect mandatory spending that is usually controlled by the authorizing committee.

Amendments passed in the House Appropriations Committee would impose stricter income limits on people who qualify for farm subsidies, reduce spending on direct payments to cover the $147 million per year being paid to Brazil to settle the World Trade Organization case that the United States lost, and use the $147 million in another year to shore up the spending level for the special nutrition program for women, infants and children known as WIC.

Peterson said in an interview this week that he and Lucas are working together to try to get the House Rules Committee to allow them to bring a point of order against those amendments. He added that former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., “was also involved in that conversation.”

But Peterson added that if the Republican leadership will not agree to allow the point of order, the Democrats will try to bring the rule down.

“Generally the Democrats will vote against the rule no matter what,” he said, and if 35 to 40 Republicans join them “they can bring the rule down.”

Peterson said he expected some Republican House Agriculture Committee subcommittee chairmen to join in the effort.

He also plans to take on the appropriators’ other cuts in mandatory programs, he said, but added that he doubts he will be successful. Peterson noted that when the Democrats were in charge, the appropriators cut $750 million from mandatory programs, but that the amount for fiscal year 2012 is $1.85 billion. Peterson said the House Rules Committee or a parliamentarian would have to allow a point of order on those cuts, which are known as changes in mandatory program spending or CHIMPS.

“If this keeps up it doesn’t matter what we do in the farm bill,” Peterson said.

The fiscal year 2012 House Agriculture appropriations bill is likely to come to the House Rules Committee and to the floor for debate next week.