The House of Representatives passed a Farm Bill on Thursday….well, part of it. They passed the (actual) farm side of the bill. The SNAP (or food stamp) portion was left off. The vote was 216-208 with no Democrats voting in favor of the bill.
Obviously, the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill included changes to the SNAP program. Now, the bill will have to go into conference between the House and Senate so they can try and hammer something out.
The problem will be trying to pass this new “hammered out” bill.
Senate Agriculture Chair Debbie Stabenow made this statement:
The bill passed by the House today is not a real Farm Bill and is an insult to rural America, which is why it’s strongly opposed by more than 500 farm, food and conservation groups. We will go to conference with the bipartisan, comprehensive Farm Bill that was passed in the Senate that not only reforms programs, supports families in need and creates agriculture jobs, but also saves billions more than the extremely flawed House bill.
She’s obviously upset, as are most Democrats, that SNAP wasn’t included in the House’s version of the bill. But, interestingly enough, many agriculture groups also did not support passage of the bill without the food stamp program.
American Farm Bureau issued this statement:
While we were hopeful the farm bill would not be split, nor permanent law repealed, we will now focus our efforts on working with lawmakers to deliver a farm bill to the president’s desk for his signature by September.
Splitting the two aspects of the bill has been discussed at length, but now that it’s happened it doesn’t seem very popular. Why?
Quite frankly, because there are many House members that have absolutely no constituents actively farming. As the number of Representatives with a connection to agriculture dwindles, so does the chances of passing a comprehensive farm bill in the future. All Senators have some connection to agriculture, but the stakes are higher in the House. Strategically, it is beneficial to tie to two bills together and (hopefully) get bipartisan support.
However, I want to put the food stamp stuff in perspective. While there may be strategic reasons to keep the two programs together, food stamps are not going anywhere and the funding will remain the same:
SNAP is part of permanent law, so it would stay intact if the farm bill expires, even though it was not part of the 1949 legislation.
(Source: Washington Post)
In all reality, there was probably going to be cuts to SNAP in the new Farm Bill and that now won’t happen. Also, no reforms are made to the program. This, arguably could be one reason AFBF was opposed to the split, since they advocate for responsible government spending and limited government. But it gets a little confusing since the Democrats (and many headlines for that matter) are acting as though the SNAP program is going to be gone forever.
But, despite what you’re hearing, food stamps aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
As far as whether we’ll have a Farm Bill in time (the current extension of the 2008 legislation will expire in September) remains to be seen. President Obama has threatened to veto the bill because it doesn’t include any SNAP provisions.
The White House said:
[T]he administration has had inadequate time to fully review the text of the bill. It is apparent, though, that the bill does not contain sufficient commodity and crop insurance reforms and does not invest in renewable energy, an important source of jobs and economic growth in rural communities across the country.”
Honestly, that confuses me to a large extent because the Farm Bill passed by the House was almost exactly the bill that failed previously, that was at least somewhat close to the Senate bill. It included the same reforms to subsidies as the new bill. Perhaps President Obama wasn’t planning on signing the Farm Bill period?
Nonetheless, I’m not sure how this will turn out since there is going to be a lot of disagreement in conference and it will be difficult to pass anything through both the House and Senate now. Whether the two bills need to be separate or not (perhaps an issue for another day), right now may not have been the best time to do it.