Update: The House passed H.R. 3102 by a vote of 217-210. The vote was criticized by a number of groups, including Bread for the World.
“As the economy slowly rebounds, more than 47 million Americans still depend on SNAP to put food on their tables. The Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act hurts hungry and poor people by slashing SNAP, increasing food insecurity, and destabilizing the economy," said David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.
“It is egregious that the House voted for the passage of the bill, as a vote in favor of this bill is a vote in favor of deep SNAP cuts,” Beckmann continued. “This type of proposal specifically picks on the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society. As a country that prides itself on a strong moral grounding, this bill is unacceptable.”
Farm organizations urged House Speaker John Boehner to quickly appoint conferees to the conference committee that will be working to reconcile the differences in farm programs between the House and Senate farm bills now that the largely symbolic vote on food stamps had been taken.
The House Republican leadership’s “misplaced priorities” on food stamps are likely to cost farmers and consumers dearly by preventing the House and Senate from conferencing on a new farm bill prior to the end of the government’s fiscal year Sept. 30.
Calling their actions neither “reasonable nor responsible,” Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee, blasted Republican leaders for holding a vote on the H.R. 3102, legislation that would reduce spending on food programs by $40 billion.
“I’ve been working on this farm bill for nearly four years and from the beginning I’ve said that I think it is possible to find some middle ground and make reasonable, responsible reforms to nutrition programs,” Peterson said in remarks on the House floor. “Unfortunately, this bill is neither reasonable nor responsible.”
Peterson, who chaired the committee when the House passed the 2008 farm bill, said the House failed to pass the Agriculture Committee’s bipartisan farm bill because of partisan amendments concerning Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.
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“Some of these amendments that are included in the bill we are considering today. This bill goes even further by eliminating state requested waivers to exempt Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents, or ABAWDS, in high unemployment areas from SNAP’s current work requirements,” he said.
“To be clear, these waivers are granted only at the request of the states. They are under no requirement to apply and may choose to opt out in the future. There’s a lot of hypocrisy coming from the other side of the aisle here – waivers have been requested by both Republican and Democratic Governors. A majority of Republican Governors, in fact, have asked to waive current work requirements.
Peterson said claims by the leadership that the House must pass H.R. 3102 to go to farm bill conference are not true. The House passed legislation, H.R. 2642, legislation which did not cut Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP benefits, which can be conferenced with the Senate’s farm bill.
“There is no reason to pass this bill – today. This isn’t going anywhere in the Senate, the President won’t sign it.”
If the House doesn’t send members to conference on the House and Senate versions of the new farm bill, the current legislation expires at the end of the government’s fiscal year, Sept. 30. If a new farm bill is not enacted, farm programs reverts to the Agriculture Act of 1949 which provides significantly higher prices for dairy, grains, cotton and other crops.
Those programs cannot be put into place immediately, but without new legislation USDA has no choice but to begin implementing Commodity Credit Corp. loan rates that are double or triple current farmgate prices as soon as possible.
“In July, a broad coalition of more than 500 organizations expressed their opposition to splitting the farm bill,” said Peterson in his remarks. “In a letter to House members, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman wrote, “We are quite concerned that without a workable nutrition title, it will prove to be nearly impossible to adopt a bill that can be successfully conferenced with the Senate’s version, approved by both the House and Senate and signed by the President.”
“All this bill (H.R. 3102) is going to do is make it harder, if not impossible, to pass a new farm bill this Congress.”