Food stamps are still holding up the long-delayed US Farm Bill, but the drafting of a legislative compromise could be on the horizon. The House and Senate have argued about the bill for months, with the food stamp provision at the heart of the debate.
Conservative Republicans defeated the passing of a new farm bill this summer because the legislation didn’t cut food stamps enough for their liking.
Negotiations can begin as soon as the House votes for open negotiations and appoints negotiators. Reuters notes that the Senate already approved negotiators for the farm bill.
The five-year bill will cost $500 billion and is expected to expand the federally subsidized crop insurance system. Along with food stamps, the main contentions also deal with changes to the US sugar program and a suggestion that wealthy farmers should pay a larger share of crop insurance premiums.
When House Republicans defeated the original farm bill, they created two separate pieces of legislation. One dealt with traditional farm program elements, while the other sharply cut funding to the national food stamp program. Yahoo! News reports that the $39 billion cut would be broken up over the span of 10 years.
However, the amount was almost 10 times the reduction proposed by the Senate, leading to an impasse the two legislative bodies haven’t been able to get past. House Democrats are also opposed to the cuts, and believe the cuts would put an undue burden on recipients.
The two subsidy programs have been tied together in bills since the 1970s, making the idea of splitting them up strange to many legislators. Colin Peterson, the Democratic leader on the House Agriculture Committee, believes the division would mean the end of the farm bill as it is currently known.
Congress is already a year behind writing a successor to the 2008 farm law, which expired last year and was revived earlier this year. However, it died again when the government went into a partial shutdown. While the food stamp program is contentious, other possible snags include Senate proposals that require farmers to practice soil conservation, in order to qualify for premium crop insurance subsidies. A similar idea was already rejected by the House.
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