House Ag lawmakers waged a spirited fight over food stamp cuts Wednesday as the ag panel moved toward approving its version of the farm bill on a 35 to 11 vote. On the road to passage the panel considered numerous amendments but most divisive was the bid to repeal a proposed 16.5-billion dollar cut over 10-years in food stamp spending, a fight key to the farm bill’s success. Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern called the reduction in SNAP funding the meanest cut of all.
“It is false to say that these cuts will not affect benefits or that they merely are closing loopholes. These cuts will result in less food for hungry Americans, period.”
McGovern offered the repeal amendment – arguing two to three-million people will lose automatic eligibility. Republicans countered the cuts weren’t cuts at all – but a two-percent reduction in SNAP that will soar to 800-billion over the next 10-years.
Illinois Republican Tim Johnson called the changes common sense reforms that end abuses that allow states to pump up food stamp rolls and those who won’t truly qualify to get benefits.
“If we don’t deal with the waste, fraud and abuse, if we don’t deal with gaming the system, if we don’t deal with bounties and otherwise, the ultimate effect of this is going to be that those people legitimately receiving assistance, if we don’t deal with those issues in a foursquare way, we’re going to bankrupt the system.”
A handful of Democrats split ranks and joined Republicans to defeat the repeal 15 to 31. A separate bid to adopt the Senate’s much smaller $4.5-billion SNAP cut also died. Chair Frank Lucas defended his 16-billion-plus cut.
“It’s not my intention to part of an effort to make anyone who qualifies suffer. But by the same token we are trying to achieve savings here, we are trying to compel reforms here, that touch all areas of this comprehensive Farm Bill. I think that the nutrition title achieves that.”
The Ag Committee also defeated changes to the bill’s new Dairy Marketing Stability Program, killed sugar program reforms and rejected a revenue loss requirement to qualify for price loss coverage. It approved amendments to require USDA to factor in FSA office workloads before any new closings, to create a new USDA Undersecretary for Foreign Ag Services, to require states to verify immigration status of SNAP applicants and to stop states from counting medical marijuana toward SNAP eligibility.[audio:https://www.hoosieragtoday.com//wp-content/uploads//2012/07/Ag-Committee-approves-House-Farm-Bill.mp3|titles=Ag Committee approves House Farm Bill]
In a statement Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “Unfortunately, the bill produced by the House Agriculture Committee contains deep cuts in SNAP, including a provision that will deny much-needed food assistance to 3 million Americans, mostly low-income working families with children as well as seniors. The proposed cuts will deny 280,000 children in low-income families access to school meals and reduce farm income across rural America. These cuts wouldn’t just leave Americans hungry – they would stunt economic growth. The bill also makes misguided reductions to critical energy and conservation program efforts. As the legislative process moves forward, the Administration will continue to seek policy solutions and savings across the Farm Bill that are consistent with the President’s budget.”
National Corn Growers Association President Garry Niemeyer released the following statement in response to the House Agriculture Committee’s 35-11 passage of the 2012 farm bill:
“The National Corn Growers Association is disappointed the House Agriculture Committee’s passed version of the 2012 farm bill does not include a more viable market-oriented risk management program. We support moving the legislative process forward and urge Speaker Boehner to schedule time for full House floor consideration before the August recess.
“However, we feel there needs to be significant changes made to the legislation. Our farmers will be working with members of the House of Representatives to ensure those changes are included in a final package.”
Source: NAFB News Service