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October 31, 2014

‘They’re Coming After Me,’ Agriculture Chairman Tells Town Hall

Agriculture Chairman Frank D. Lucas says he’s “under attack” by outside groups for his role in drafting a farm bill abhorred by many conservatives.

The Oklahoma Republican’s comments at a town hall meeting Monday come as GOP leadership back in Washington consider a path forward for the five-year reauthorization of the country’s farm programs. The legislation suffered a surprise defeat on the House floor last month, for which conservative advocacy groups like the Club for Growth and Heritage Action take much of the credit.

“They’re coming after me,” Lucas reportedly told constituents, according to the Tulsa World. “They are all special interest groups that exist to sell subscriptions, to collect seminar fees and to perpetuate their goals.

“You’ve got to understand: They don’t necessarily want a Republican president or a Republican Congress,” Lucas continued in response to a constituent, who at the meeting had cited an analysis of the farm bill provided by Heritage Action. “They made more money when [Democrat] Nancy [Pelosi] was speaker. … It’s a business.”

Lucas also said, “I have to deal in the real world,” suggesting that he adhered to certain political realities, namely the importance of passing a farm bill through the House that could pass muster with the Senate when the two chambers go to conference to merge the two measures.

The farm bill was voted down, 195-234, for a number of reasons. Many Republicans voted no because they wanted deeper cuts to food stamps, while Democrats opposed conservative provisions that were added on the floor.

Heritage Action, in the days leading up to House floor consideration of the farm bill, ran a radio ad against him in Oklahoma.

“You can put a tuxedo on a pig and call it Steve, but it’s still a pig,” a voice intones. “And Congressman Frank Lucas can call a food stamp bill a farm bill, but it’s still a food stamp bill.”

Though House GOP leaders are mulling the possibility of splitting the farm bill into separate titles that deal with farm programs and nutrition programs separately — a strategy heralded by Heritage Action and Club for Growth, among other groups — Lucas reiterated that it was a bad idea.

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