(Breaking story. Updates being made. House passes farm-only farm bill. July 11, 2013.)
SALEM, Ohio — Reports that the U.S. House of Representatives may consider a farm bill minus the food stamp provision has stirred a wide range of reaction.
Washington media are reporting the bill would include only the farm provisions, and that the House would later vote on a separate bill to fund food stamps.
When combined, food stamps, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, make up more than three-fourths of the $500 billion farm bill and were a major issue of contention among House members who failed the combined bill June 20, by a vote of 195-234.
Some farmers have also voiced support for splitting the two programs, but most farm organizations are speaking out against the split, warning that it could leave the agriculture program at risk of not passing, over fear that an urban-dominated House might not provide enough votes.
In a July 2 letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, more than 500 farm organizations called for a comprehensive farm bill and cautioned against the split.
“Farm bills represent a delicate balance between America’s farm, nutrition, conservation, and other priorities, and accordingly require strong bipartisan support,” the authors wrote. “… We believe that splitting the nutrition title from the rest of the bill could result in neither farm nor nutrition programs passing, and urge you to move a unified farm bill forward.”
American Farm Bureau Farm Policy Specialist Mary Kay Thatcher, in a recent interview on Newsline, said the House would likely not have enough rural support.
“You’re looking at 435 members in the House, 25 percent of whom have zero farmers in their district,” she said. “How does one go to the Hill and convince one of those members of Congress to support spending money for agriculture?”
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said “splitting farm programs and nutrition assistance into two separate bills is a disservice to farmers, ranchers, rural residents and consumers.
“The bill needs to remain intact, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s efforts to provide safety net programs for both farmers and consumers facing hard times should not be pulled in opposite directions. Farmers produce the food upon which consumers across the country, including those in need of some assistance, rely.”
Some senators expressed their view on the split over Twitter, and more statements are forthcoming.
U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Cleveland, and a House Agriculture Committee member, tweeted “taking SNAP, other nutrition programs out of the farm bill is not the way to go. Growing and feeding go hand in hand.”
The Senate approved its version of the farm bill June 10, by a vote of 66-27.