On Table are Food Stamps, Anti-Hunger Program, Crop
Reuters reported TODAY the
final stage of the long-delayed U.S. farm bill is about to begin, but drafting
a legislative compromise between the Senate and House of Representatives is
still hampered by deep partisan divisions over cuts in food stamps for the
Lawmakers in the House agreed
on today to open negotiations with the Senate over a final version of the
five-year, $500 billion bill. Its salient agricultural initiative, but one that
is mostly not controversial, is an expansion of federally subsidized crop
insurance by 10 percent.
The major dispute in the bill
is food stamps, which help low-income Americans, mostly children, the elderly
or disabled, to buy food. The latest figures show a near-record 47.8 million
people received benefits averaging $133 a month.
House wants to cut the major U.S. anti-hunger program by $39 billion over a
decade, nearly 10 times the reduction proposed by the Democrat-run Senate. The
tighter eligibility rules in the House plan would cut 4 million people from the
program in 2014.
House Majority Leader Eric
Cantor was the leading proponent of the cuts. Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina
Republican said, "We believe by reforming food stamps we will save the
program for the truly needy,"
House Democrats regard the
Republicans as putting an undue burden on recipients.
Jim Clyburn of South Carolina
cited language to require food stamp applicants to take a drug test and
suggested, "You ought to test all those people getting farm subsidies and
see if they are deserving of federal benefits."
In a tactical move, House
Republicans would split the farm bill in two for review in the future. The food
stamp program would be considered every three years, while agricultural
programs would be on a five-year cycle.
Conservatives say it will be
easier to win reforms under that format. Nutrition and farm subsidy programs
have been tied together since the 1970s, creating a coalition of farm-state and
Colin Peterson of Minnesota,
the Democratic leader on the House Agriculture Committee, said the division
could mean the end of farm bills, as they have been known until now.
"We need a full conference
to work out some big differences," conceded Frank Lucas, chairman of the
House Agriculture Committee.
Congress is a year behind
schedule in writing a successor to the 2008 farm law, which expired a year ago
and was revived early this year. It died again at the same time the government
went into a partial shutdown.
"The big question is if
we're going to get a new farm bill," said Craig Cox of the Environmental
Working Group. "I think there's a long way to go from where we are today
to a farm bill that can pass on the floor of the Senate and the House."
Democrats voted en masse
against food stamp cuts. Tea Party-influenced Republicans assured defeat of the
original House farm bill in June because they wanted deeper cuts than the $20
billion proposed. It was the first time the House defeated a farm bill.
provisions, the most contentious are likely to be Senate proposals to require
farmers to practice soil conservation to qualify for premium subsidies on crop
insurance, and to require the wealthiest growers, with more than $750,000
adjusted gross income a year, to pay a larger share of the premium. The House
has rejected similar ideas.
Crop insurance is the largest
part of the farm safety net, costing about $9 billion a year.
Labels: Anti-Hunger Program, Crop Insurance, Farm Bill For Final Face-off, On Table are food stamps