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Farm Bill Compromise Slightly Cuts Food Stamp Funds

Deal also stops $5 billion each year in direct subsidies in favor of a crop insurance program.

by
Bill Straub

Bio

January 28, 2014 - 11:27 pm
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WASHINGTON – After two years of back-and-forth negotiations, House and Senate conferees have struck a deal on a new farm bill that imposes cuts in the food stamp program and eliminates the controversial direct payment subsidy program for farmers.

The measure, which could come up for a House vote as early as Wednesday, reduces food stamp appropriations by about $800 million a year over the next five years but doesn’t cut any qualified individuals from the program. Instead of direct payments the bill shifts focus toward enhancing the availability of crop insurance, meaning farmers won’t receive financial support unless they face losses.

The package is expected to cost about $100 billion a year over five years – an anticipated cut of around $2.3 billion a year overall from current spending. It has attracted the support of the House Republican leadership – House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called it “a step in the right direction” – but a sizeable portion of the GOP caucus likely will offer opposition as a result of what they consider insufficient food stamp cuts. Some Democrats are also liable to vote against it because they view those cuts as too extreme.

Regardless, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, promoted the measure as one that “saves taxpayers billions, eliminates unnecessary subsidies, creates a more effective farm safety-net and helps farmers and businesses create jobs.”

It also, she said, benefits from being part of a bipartisan effort.

“This bill proves that by working across party lines we can reform programs to save taxpayer money while strengthening efforts to grow our economy,” Stabenow said. “Agriculture is a bright spot in our economy and is helping to drive our recovery. It’s time for Congress to finish this Farm Bill and give the 16 million Americans working in agriculture the certainty they need and deserve.”

Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) also touted the savings, asserting that the Agricultural Act of 2014 “is good for farmers, ranchers, consumers and those who have hit difficult times.”

It also carries the seal of approval from the American Farm Bureau Federation, which called the proposal “a solid bill” that will “provide farmers and ranchers certainty for the coming year.”

At the same time, the bill drew criticism from organizations like the Environmental Working Group.

“The bill is seriously flawed and misses an important opportunity to produce agriculture policy that meets the needs of family farmers and the environment and helps families put nutritious food on their tables,” said Craig Cox, EWG senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources.

Still, it appears the bill will have the votes to pass.

The most important policy shift for agriculture producers involves the elimination of the heavily criticized, $5 billion per year direct payment regime that has its roots in the 1996 farm bill. As currently administered, individuals can receive subsidies whether they are actually planting or not, even though the Department of Agriculture anticipates that farm income is likely to hit its highest level in 40 years this year.

Instead, farmers may qualify for subsidies to purchase crop insurance that could prove vital in instances of weather disasters and market volatility, providing farmers with a risk management tool intended to provide protection in difficult times.

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All Comments   (4)
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A year ago the House GOP promised to end subsidizing crop insurance. It was almost a given just 6 months ago. The federal government has no more reason subsidzing crop insurance then they do subsidizing medical mal-practice insurance.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wait... the GOP actually got something out of a negotiation? Are you sure this isn't the Onion?
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
why is there still a farm bill? And how do people who allegedly stand for limited govt support one?
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
I know one rancher, who receives 200,000 dollars of federal subsidies for simply plowing up native high desert prairie, which at best can only produce one decent (barely passable as a crop of wheat) every seven years. Crop failure insurance etc can be forthcoming the rest of the time; but that is not the biggest travesty. Native high desert praire was never meant to be plowed; especially when that same prairie receives an average of 12 inches of rainfall every year. This is one of many examples of the same, and it's sucks. Oh ... and if that same rancher got tired of plowing up the praire, he can be compensated handsomely for seeding it to "spring wheat" and to take it out of production for 10 years; every year for ten years that same rancher would be paid generously for doing NOTHING with that particular land, as if he was a victim of some disaster - that's called the CRP (Crop Rest Program) - and even at that, ranchers can take hay off that same land when a drought hits.
Unbelievable waste of taxpayers money.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
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