What is in this article?:
- Senate Agriculture Committee passes farm bill out of committee.
- Vote was 15-5.
- Nutrition program spending creates intense debate.
- Some Midwest lawmakers unhappy with target prices set for rice and peanuts.
Cuba, nutrition program spending
Montana Sen. Max Baucus – backed by Arkansas Sen. John Boozman -- offered an amendment regarding cash sales of agricultural products to Cuba. “This issue is politically charged. … My amendment would correct a problem that needs to be addressed and cut through the political stuff. … It’s a no-brainer. It makes sense if we want our farmers and ranchers products to Cuba.”
As expected, debate over nutrition programs produced the most heat. The Senate bill would cut $400 million of the $80 billion spent annually on the SNAP program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
Several senators clashed over an amendment that would restore full funding to three nutrition programs.
“To talk about cutting food and nutrition … at this difficult time is inappropriate,” said Massachusetts Sen. William Cowan.
Regarding the food programs, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said, “Families who are living in poverty – our children, our veterans, our seniors, some of our active duty personnel – are going to suffer if we cut food stamps. I believe we shouldn’t be balancing the debt or deficit on the backs of these hard-working Americans who are just hungry. I think it’s a moral statement and I will fight against any cuts to the food stamp program.”
Due to the tough economy, said Gillibrand, “not only have the number of people coming to food banks – largely driven by families with children – but the amount of food (the banks are receiving) in terms of donations has declined. So, there’s a far greater need with less resources. And the need isn’t being met. Even when we see the unemployment numbers go down, the need for food assistance has not.”
At one point, following Gillibrand’s passionate defense of the nutrition program funding, Roberts suggested she needed to get her “blood pressure” under control.
Chambliss said he was “in sympathy with those who have spoken in favor of restoring” the nutrition program funding. “The food banks in my state are busier than ever.”
In the end, Gillibrand, Johanns, Roberts, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, and Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell voted against the 1,000-page bill.
The House Agriculture Committee is set to mark up its own farm bill on Wednesday morning.