D.C. Watch: SNAP divides House, Senate versions of farm bill

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Congress finally passed a bill that reopened the government, at least temporarily, and raised the debt ceiling enough to allow the government to pay its bills for a few months. The continuing resolution will fund the government until January 15th and the debt ceiling will allow the government to borrow money through February 7th. A committee made up of members of the House and Senate will be charged with developing a bipartisan budget by December 13th. If that doesn’t work, we could face another government shutdown in less than 3 months.

Congress House leadership has finally appointed members to the farm bill conference committee but there is no set date for talks with Senate counterparts to begin. The appointed committee members are comprised mostly of members of the House Ag Committee and its Chairman, Frank Lucas (R-OK), will head up the conference committee. House Speaker Boehner named Representative Steve Southerland (R-FL) to the conference committee. This is significant because it was Representative Southerland who led the fight to cut food stamp spending by close to $40 billion. His appointment suggests that House leadership will continue to insist on much bigger food stamp cuts than those likely to be readily accepted by the Senate. The Democrats’ committee members include Representative Marsh Fudge (D-OH), who staunchly opposes food stamp cuts.

The full House voted on some resolutions to help guide the members appointed to the conference committee this week. The House rejected a proposal that would have recommended changes to the sugar policy. The sugar policy was left basically unchanged in both the House and the Senate versions of the farm bill. The House did approve a resolution instructing conferees to support the Senate farm bill provision that would reduce crop insurance premium subsidies for farmers with incomes of $750,000 or more. The proposal would reduce the subsidy from a high of 62 percent to 42 percent. Conference committee members do not have to go along with this resolution – but probably will. A proposal to instruct conferees to set the term of the nutrition title of the farm bill at 5 years (the same as in the Senate) and to retain the current permanent farm legislation (the 1938 and 1949 laws) was voted down.

Getting a compromise bill through the conference committee will be difficult agrees House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN). He notes the obvious challenge will be those big differences between the House and Senate proposals for food stamps. But beyond that Peterson says there are other big, contentious issues. One is the dairy proposal. The Senate bill has a supply control provision that kicks in when prices get low. Peterson tried to get a similar provision in the House bill, but the plan was defeated on the House floor. There are also important differences on the target price-type programs with higher targets in the House version and tying payments to planted acres instead of base acres.

The American Farm Bureau Federation has also weighed in early. AFBF president Bob Stallman has sent a letter to farm bill conference committee members outlining the group’s position on key issues. Retaining permanent legislation and keeping farm-related provisions and nutrition linked were at the top of the list. The Farm Bureau opposes means-testing as part of eligibility determination for program benefits. It also opposes caps for farm program payments and has recently dropped out of a coalition that favored linking crop insurance and conservation compliance.

The Environmental Protection Agency now says the leaked documents indicating significant cuts to ethanol mandates for 2014 were only “draft proposals” and that decisions about the mandates for next year have not been finalized. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says that no decisions will be made on 2014 standards until stakeholders have a chance to comment on any proposals. Reductions in ethanol mandates for 2014 have been expected, but the 15.21 billion gallons indicated in the leaked documents were lower than most people had expected and put pressure on corn prices.

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Billie Thomas    
Tucson Az  |  October, 22, 2013 at 08:00 AM

If the ileagles were eliminated from the 'freebies' and all, it would save so much that the citizens that need the programs could be helped and still have billions saved.

VT  |  October, 22, 2013 at 08:19 AM

Those illegals are part of what makes your Arizona milk cheap and competitive.

Texas  |  October, 22, 2013 at 09:59 AM

Nope, it is the Dairy Farm Subsadies from the government that makes milk cheap. That is all that is keeping some of these dairy producers in business so they make extra and the Government gives away FREE cheese. It is due to Government price controls. If those subsadies are removed, then a lot of dairy farmers will fail because there is no free market on milk, and if there were, milk would cost $15 - $20 a gallon at the store.

SW Oklahoma, where the subsidies grow tall...  |  October, 22, 2013 at 12:03 PM

There isn't a subsidy/crop insurance/disaster fund taking farmer or rancher that reads this that should ever dare open his/her mouth about a person on a SNAP program...

Tom Neff    
SW MO  |  October, 22, 2013 at 01:34 PM

Ricky - I think the difference is probably in the sweat equity.........SNAP.

NY  |  October, 22, 2013 at 09:34 PM

How about this?! Put the gov't employees who were let out on a 'paid vacation' during the the gov't slowdown on border patrol for the number of hours they were paid for not working, cut the food and medical give-aways in this country, let free market actually run the milk market, get rid of handouts and programs to farmers/ranchers ENTIRELY and let the people who can actually run and manage a business/farm/ranch do exactly that without interference from the government

Carroll Wade    
N Y  |  October, 22, 2013 at 10:11 PM

Since 1950 the farmers of America have been subsidizing the food bill of all Americans and part of the rest of the World . The real problem lies in the fact that the labor sector of the U S is receiving about 70 to 75 % of what they should be getting paid . The farm sector is receiving around 35% of what they should be . The industrial and business sector is receiving 190% of what they should . This is known as an inbalance of the economy . whenever you have this inbalance , you have a lack of purchacing power on the part of those who are in the negative balance . Farmers and laborers are unable to purchase the goods and services of the three segments . When this occurs, you end up with unemployment and a resessionary situation .

Texas  |  October, 24, 2013 at 10:02 AM

The hard truth of the matter is that everyone is going to have to pay on the debt we now owe, so every program, every paycheck, every budget needs to be cut. We need to quit pointing fingers at some one and screaming at them to bail faster --- we're all in the same dang boat people. I don't want to do it, everyone needs to grab a bucket fast. I think of the greatest generation of our country, that's what they referred to the WWII era of Americans. They got it, they realized that we all had to give something up, and many did give everything, even their lives, for this country. I remember how growing up none of us wanted to muck stalls, not many of us wanted to do the tough and rough jobs on the farm. We have a small family farm, and we all did the work -- ourselves, and we never asked anyone to work for us who we weren't willing to work along side. We got the fact that everyone has to sacrifice, everyone has to work hard, and we don't always get what we want. Sometimes we have to do with what we need. We worked from before sun up to past sun down and were happy to do it, because we were working for our family and our home. Sometimes we did live like paupers, growing our own food, and if we didn't have money for something - we just didn't buy it. We didn't go on vacations. The only time I ever saw golf was on TV. What I'd really like to see is someone in the White House who actually knows what it is to work for a living, not just walk around impressing people with all the "stuff" they know and think, in shiny shoes and fancy suits. One of my kids told me, "ain't nothing free but Jesus." People need to realize they use these words like "freebie" or "entitlement" but that's just spin. Someone always pays.

Texas  |  October, 24, 2013 at 10:32 AM

The USDA is one of the agencies that has been RESPONSIBLE, and yet they are still be "budgetly-carnivorized" while other programs continue -- even in the last year's economic environment. Take a look at this article: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20120213/AGENCY01/202130308/ and you will see exactly what I mean. Many agencies increased spending.

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