The most recent Farm Bill (Federal Agriculture Reform and risk Management Act of 2013) which was narrowly passed in the House has caused some confusion. Compare the Bill’s headlines to what Rep. Reed said in his Press Release.
To Rep. Reed’s Press Release:
The bill voted on in the House Thursday has no impact on SNAP programs, keeping full funding in place. “Snap funding remains completely preserved in this bill and still, Democrats refuse to support our nation’s farmers,” Reed said.
Can both be possible? Maybe. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which was 80% of the Farm Bill, disappeared. It wasn’t repealed; there is no reference to it at all. I guess Rep. Reed can say SNAP has been preserved for the moment, but it is not in the House bill.
The House Republican Leadership, who had egg on their faces after the last version of the bill was defeated, felt that they needed to strip SNAP from their bill to appease the powerful radical right of their party to have any farm bill to take to a conference committee to negotiate with the Democrats. In essence, the 216 Republicans who approved the modified Farm Bill has split it into two bills.
Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), who voted for the modified farm bill, called splitting apart the bill “risky” because the (SNAP) program “is a permanent law and if it goes on without reforms, then we may end up not having reforms in the program, which would not be a good thing.” That also means that SNAP may be reformed, which is what the radical right wants to happen. Changing SNAP requires approval from both the Senate and the House, and then the President’s signature. That’s a lot of hurdles to jump over.
I was also confused about how farmers felt about the bill. Rep. Reed reported that he had “strong support” for the newly passed farm bill, and had quotes from three Farmers from our congressional district indicating so.
- But at least 530 farm groups, including the American Farm Bureau argued against the bill-splitting.
- Many conservatives didn’t like the split either, “because the House leadership wouldn’t allow any amendments to the agriculture-only component — the parts that spent money on commodity programs for farmers and an expansion of crop insurance.”
- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in an interview that the House bill lacked comprehensive reform and criticized Republicans for turning their backs on rural Americans in favor of partisan politics.”I’m sure there is a lot of disappointment and irritation,” said Vilsack. “Farmers, ranchers, producers and rural Americans really deserved much better than they got today.”
- The farm bill passed would cut about $20 billion by ending or consolidating several programs and reducing subsidy spending, including the $5 billion a year in direct payments given to farmers regardless of need. That will indirectly affect food prices.
- U.S. Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) says the vote places a lot of uncertainty on the future. “With not having a farm policy in place, it creates a lot of uncertainty,” he said. “When people go into this fall not knowing what the farm program is going to be for the next year, how do you plan? Are you able to get credit at the bank? Also with the feeding programs, which is about 80 percent of the Farm Bill, there is uncertainty as to what is going to happen there and what the eligibility requirements will be.
What happens next?
The House and the Senate may be able to compromise and pass a new Farm Bill, or they may agree to extend the current bill for another year. Either one needs to be done by September 30. If they fail to agree on something by then the Farm Bill will revert back to the ‘Permanent Law’ of 1949. If that happens we would expect higher consumer prices, especially for dairy products.
The Farm Bill is complex and affects the core of the nation. This is a time for elected officials to work together. It is too bad that it is being used for political gain, be it the Republican leadership caving in to their extreme right, or the parties demonizing each other. Yes, Nancy Pelosi called the issue of feeding the poor “almost biblical in nature,” and our congressman’s recent press release announces “Democrats choose politics over farmers.” Both will get their political bases riled up, but does little to advance this important piece of legislation. We deserve better.
- Food Stamps Cause of Fight Between Senate and House Over Farm Bill (hngn.com)
- Seeds of discontent over House farm bill (billingsgazette.com)
- House Republicans cheer as they pass farm bill without food stamps or a future (dailykos.com)
- House Passes Farm Only Farm Bill (hoosieragtoday.com)