U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-OK, voted for an agriculture economic assistance package that passed the House, but urged his colleagues in the Senate to put back in $1 billion of funding for farmers and ranchers cut out of the bill, while it was still in the agriculture committee.

"I haven't forgotten the cuts made in this bill, in the agriculture committee," Lucas said, "and neither have farmers and ranchers, who will suffer the consequences of $1 billion less in agriculture funding than they received last year for Agricultural Marketing Transition Act payments and other needed projects."

Lucas worked to keep the funding level for the package at its original $6.5 million, but the committee voted to reduce the funding. The reduced amount not only lowers the AMTA payment amount, but also eliminates the Loan Deficient Payment graze out program for 2002, which allows farmers and ranchers to receive an LDP payment on wheat that is grazed, rather than harvested. The bill's cuts also will cost Oklahoma producers 10 cents per bushel for wheat.

The funding is the last of fiscal year 2001 funding Congress will provide for agriculture producers, which must be distributed by the end of the fiscal year. Since the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, Lucas voted for the package to expedite getting it to producers.

"We need to get this funding passed and on to the Senate, so that it isn't lost entirely," Lucas said. "But I will urge my colleagues in the Senate to reinstate funding levels similar to the $6.5 billion we originally requested, so the final bill is equal to the assistance we have provided in the past. Farmers and ranchers can't afford to have us pull the rug out from under them when they are facing even higher production costs and stagnant grain prices."

The bill passed the House unanimously. Lucas debated the bill on the House floor before passage. It now will go to the Senate for a vote.

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