WASHINGTON — A Democratic lawmaker criticized Rep. Frank Lucas and 13 other Republican lawmakers Monday for accepting taxpayer subsidies for their farm operations but supporting a farm bill that had been stripped of food stamp and other nutrition programs.
“It's outrageous that some members of Congress feel it is OK to vote for their own taxpayer subsidies but against critical nutrition assistance for 47 million Americans,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif.
“It's bad enough that the House of Representatives didn't pass a Farm Bill that included authorization for sorely needed nutrition programs, but to see members of Congress approving their own benefits at the expense of the working poor is a new low, even for this Congress.”
Miller released a report showing Lucas, R-Cheyenne, had received $40,613 in farm subsidies from the U.S. government. However, the report is based on Environmental Working Group data that shows the subsidies went to Lucas' wife, Lynda, who operates the family ranch in Roger Mills County.
Lynda Lucas received $14,584 in federal disaster payments in 2012, according to the Environmental Working Group.
Lucas said Monday, “The EWG/Miller report covers the last 18 years, during which my wife received a total of $40,613 in seven of those years.
“Sixty percent of those payments were in the last two years to help deal with devastating drought conditions that gripped Oklahoma and much of the nation."
A financial disclosure report filed by Frank Lucas last month for the 2012 calendar year shows gross farm income between $100,000 and $1 million; the disaster payment was part of that income, Lucas' spokesman said. The disclosure report does not attribute the farm income solely to Lynda Lucas.
Miller's report shows Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., and his wife have received nearly $3.5 million in farm subsidies since 1999, and Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., and his wife received about $1.7 million in subsidies, including nearly $63,000 last year.
Both couples received direct payments through a controversial program created by the 1996 farm bill that guaranteed a fixed amount even if no crops were grown. The House and Senate have voted this year to eliminate the program.
Combined, the 14 lawmakers and their spouses have received about $7.2 million in farm subsidies since 1995, the report says.
In a statement to Politico, Fincher said he had voted to eliminate the direct payments he and his wife had received.
“Both the House and the Senate passed bills that end direct payments, and as we move forward, I hope we can work out the rest of the issues to implement the necessary reforms,” he said.
Lucas is chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and he guided a farm bill through the panel that followed the tradition of combining farm and nutrition programs.
However, the House defeated that bill in June, as most Democrats complained that it cut too much from food stamps and some Republicans objected that it didn't cut enough.
House Republican leaders then insisted that the farm portion of the bill be considered separately, and the House approved that legislation two weeks ago. Lucas has said that his committee will work to craft a separate food stamp bill that could gain House approval. The Senate-passed farm bill includes farm and nutrition programs.
Miller's report also includes the estimated wealth of the 14 Republicans based on the annual financial disclosure reports filed by members of Congress; the report contrasts the wealth of the members with the number of people on food stamps in their districts.
Using an opensecrets.org summary of Lucas' reported assets and liabilities for 2011, the report estimates Lucas' net worth between $265,000 and $1 million. And it says 248 people in Roger Mills County receive food stamps, about 6 percent of the county population.
However, according to a report from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, food stamp participants in Roger Mills County reached 342 people in March of this year.