Farm Bill Debate Revolves Around Food Stamps

The ongoing debate regarding the 2012 Farm Bill continues to hinge on food stamps and federal funding for nutritional aid, congressional insiders say.

After more than a year of vacillating debate and indecision, Congress finally took hesitant steps towards creating a new farm bill. In May, the U.S. Senate passed their version of the farm bill (one that contained billions of dollars in spending cuts, most of which were centered on farm subsidies). While the House Agriculture Committee passed a draft of the farm bill in July, House leadership has not advanced the bill to the floor, citing ideological rifts within the GOP and a critical lack of votes.

With the existing farm bill expiring in a month and with politicians on both sides of the aisle pressed by constituents, it is becoming clear that the farm bill delay hinges on food stamps funding. A debate in Nebraska between Bob Kerrey and Deb Fischer (both competing to replace retiring Senator Bob Nelson) highlighted the centrality of food stamps in the agricultural debate.

When pressed by moderators to discuss what parts of the Senate farm bill each candidate would cut, Kerrey responded that the agricultural community had already sacrificed enough and that he would not support expanded spending cuts. Fischer, however, responded, “We need a farm bill that is a farm bill.”

Fischer’s statement has been a central part of the House GOP’s criticism of the farm bill; namely, that only 20 percent of the bill addresses agricultural issues. The remaining 80 percent of farm bill spending goes towards nutritional programs like food stamps. With the House eager to cut food stamps funding and with the Senate committed to defending nutritional aid programs, it is increasingly unlikely that a new farm bill will be passed before the September 30 deadline.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer