Farm Press Blog

Farm bill or food stamps?

  • The House defeated its Agriculture-Committee approved Federal Agricultural Reform and Risk Management Act on June 20.
  • Republican leaders contend House Democrats who had pledged to vote for it scuttled the bill at the last minute.
  • Those leaders may have to decide whether they want to save the food stamp program if they want the House to pass -- and the president to sign -- a new farm bill.

Do you want to do away with food stamps or have a new farm bill?

By now, most have heard the House defeated the Federal Agricultural Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, also known as the new farm bill, by a vote of 195-234. It was the first time the House had ever voted down a farm bill.

You’ve probably read about the accusations flying back and forth between Democrats and Republicans about who was responsible for the negative vote on the legislation, which passed the House Agriculture Committee on a bipartisan vote.

House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., have said last-minute defections by several Democrats led to the defeat of the measure, which Boehner voted for after spending a year refusing to bring it to the House floor. Cantor and other Republicans haven’t talked about why those Democrats “walked away.”


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A few minutes before the final vote, Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., introduced an amendment that applied federal welfare work requirements to the food stamp program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. The amendment basically said food stamp recipients either had to be working or looking for work. The amendment passed 227-198.

What’s wrong with that? Well, it sounds good on the surface. But what about the farmers who have their employees sign up for food stamps when harvest is completed? In many rural communities, there are no jobs to look for or certainly none that would allow employees to return to the farm in the spring.

And what about those who lost their jobs in 2008 and finally gave up looking because the economy has been slower to recover than in any other modern recession? Democrats who were already concerned about the FARMM bill’s $20.5 billion cut in SNAP benefits told Rep. Collin Peterson, the House Agriculture Committee’s ranking Democrat, they couldn’t vote for the final bill.

All but one of the 62 Republican House members who voted against the farm bill voted for the Southerland amendment.

It’s no secret many Tea Party-backed members of Congress want to reduce the size of the federal government, and they see food stamps as a step toward that goal even though food stamp spending is less than 1 percent of the federal budget.


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They cite the growth of food stamp spending to $81 billion in the last four years as reason for reducing outlays. They don’t mention that growth occurred during one of the longest recessions in this country’s history or that highly profitable companies (such as Wal-Mart) have cut wages or reduced hours so that many employees have to apply for food stamps to feed their families.

Democrats won’t vote for additional cuts to the program. And 62 Republican members believe the cuts weren’t deep enough. So it looks like we’re either going to have to get rid of food stamps or forego a new farm bill and let the 1949 permanent law take effect. Some choice, huh?


               You might also read:

The farm bill: Is there enough common ground in the House for another try?

Immigration reform and a new farm bill: the view from Louisiana


Discuss this Blog Entry 2

on Jul 3, 2013

if 'worked' like our leaders, I wouldn't have any work.

on Jul 3, 2013

It seems to me that the food stamp program needs to be moved from the USDA and placed into the Department of HHS. By doing this, you would see exactly how our illustrious Congress would treat agriculture. The only reason that any "Farm Bill" has passed in recent years is because the welfare of "food stamps" has been attached. Take that away and it decreases the number of votes these turkeys can buy with taxpayer money. The actual farm vote is so minor that it doesn't matter to Congress. Also, by having the food stamp program tied to the Farm Bill; it gives a false impression to the uneducated city dwellers that the farmers are getting this enormous payout from the taxpayers, when in fact the majority of the Farm Bill expenditure is going to food stamp recipients in cities.

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