The Senate on Monday passed a five-year farm bill that promises to cut “$24 billion from farm spending over 10 years, including a $4 billion reduction to food stamps.” The legislation, S. 954, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 was approved by the Senate 66-27, with more than 15 Republicans joining the Democrats.
Fox News reported:
The wide-ranging, five-year agriculture measure would cost taxpayers $955 billion.That bulk of the money — $760.2 billion — would go toward the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – or commonly known as the food stamp program which helps low-income families buy food. The Senate bill makes a small cut to the food stamp program, while the House version shaves off $17.4 billion.
Senator Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) voted against the bill in the Agriculture Committee on May 14th and today on the Senate floor.
“I want a farm bill to provide certainty for America’s producers and consumers, but this is not the best bill possible for farmers and ranchers or the taxpayer. Among my concerns, I am disappointed the Farm Bill includes target prices,” Roberts said. “We had an opportunity to build upon the reforms of last year’s Senate passed bill. Instead, this bill looks in the rearview mirror for outdated policies that cause the farmer to plant for the government and not the market. We have seen the effects of this interference before with extended periods of depressed prices and excess supplies. In addition, several of these target prices are set so high that they may exceed a producer’s full cost of production.”
“In this budget environment and at a time when we are looking to make smart cuts to farm programs, I cannot justify a subsidy program that can pay producers more than the cost of production and essentially becomes nothing more than an income transfer program, not a risk management tool.
Another “no” vote was Senator Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who issued the following press release following the vote:
Agriculture forms the backbone of the Texas economy and is an integral part of our proud heritage, as it is for the rest of the nation. Unfortunately, the current farm bill gives far less attention to the needs of farmers than it does to politicians and special interests. For an issue as critical to our nation’s safety and American livelihoods as ensuring a reliable food supply, I am disappointed that Washington’s cynical politics have again trumped any real reform.Any meaningful support for farmers in this trillion dollar bill is unnecessarily held hostage to the unchecked growth of food stamp entitlements and numerous other programs unrelated to farming. This farm bill costs 60 percent more than the 2008 bill. Nearly 80 percent of it is comprised of food stamps. It fails to provide a true safety net for difficult years, fails to fully target assistance to those most in need, and fails to prioritize farm aid over duplicative programs, subsidizing unrelated programs from green energy to housing.We should address the true needs of American farmers, but the bill considered by the Senate does much more harm than good. I hope our House colleagues will include needed reforms that the Senate omitted in its flawed consideration of this important issue.
Last year, the Senate passed a similar bill that was never enacted because the House failed to take it up.
The Hill reported:
Stabenow said she hopes that House leaders will allow a floor vote on a farm bill this year.
“Hopefully the House this time will complete this work and we’ll have an opportunity to go to conference,” Stabenow said. “The House, in my opinion, walked away from rural America last year.”
The House is working on a rival, $940 billion farm bill that cuts spending by $39.7 billion over 10 years, with $20.5 billion of the cuts coming food stamps. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) (R-Okla.) crafted the bill, which will likely get a floor vote later this month.
Democrats are firmly against the food stamp cuts in the House farm bill, and the differences between the two versions might be difficult to bridge in a conference committee.
We’re looking at $940 billion vs $955 billion?..Republicans can’t do better than that?