Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Some want to strip food stamps from Farm Bill, but that would make it hard to pass

Republican critics of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, have become more vocal, with many calling for severing the long-connected ties between it and farm programs in the Farm Bill, Agri-Pulse reports. The move would make it harder to maintain farm subsidies, so it seems unlikely to go anywhere. But at a time when all federal programs and the control of Congress and teh White House are up for grabs, Agri-Pulse asks an important question: Would it be possible, in a House  "dominated by urban dwellers, to find 218 votes for passing a bill devoted only to helping farmers?"

Until the 1960s, farm bills were mostly devoted to the commodity title. But when Congress became increasingly urban and suburban, farm-state representatives folded food stamps into farm policy to win majorities, Agri-Pulse reports. "Ever since inception of food program, there's always been a linkage between farm products and food assistance," said Roger Szemraj, agriculture and nutrition expert at OFW Law, a Washington firm.

Because there are fewer farmers and fewer congressional districts in rural areas, he said, the food-stamp portion of the Farm Bill gives urban representatives a reason to support the legislation. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., told Agri-Pulse this summer that it would be hard to pass a bill only about farming without SNAP attached to it because it wouldn't get enough votes.

Agri-Pulse is available by subscription only, but a free trial can be found here.

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