The House of Representatives has approved a farm bill, which was stalled for more than two years. Although the news is good for many farmers, the bill reduces the nation’s food stamp program by $800 million. The cuts will affect an estimated 47 million low-income families.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was a specific point of contention, as the original bill cut $40 billion from the food stamp program. Although it took more than two years, the House and Senate Agriculture committees reached a compromise.
House Speaker John Boehner said “all Americans stand to benefit in some way from this farm bill… this is an improvement over current law, and there are no earmarks.” The cuts are expected to save between $16 billion and $23 billion over next 10 years.
Although food stamps are being cut, the bill increases funding for food banks. Lawmakers hope the $200 million increase will ease the burden for families affected by the cuts.
The farm bill also eliminates direct payment subsidies. As the subsidy was previously available to all farmers, lawmakers believe it was often misused. The funds will be re-directed into government-subsidized crop insurance.
The change will ensure subsidies are paid to those who are truly in need. The insurance will provide assistance to farmers who lose their crops in natural disasters and droughts. However, farmers will have to prove a loss before they receive funds.
As reported by the Chicago Tribune, the farm bill changes some subsidies for farmers, but maintains supplemental funding for major crops, including corn, cotton, rice, soybeans, and wheat.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the changes “will reduce the deficit and cut waste and fraud.” He also said the compromise will provide assistance for “hungry children and families.”
Although the changes are still being debated, House and Senate leaders seem to be committed to the compromise. Republican and Democratic leaders both agree cuts need to be made. However, they spent two years arguing about where to make the cuts.
Although cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program were less that one percent, some lawmakers are concerned it is still too much. The average low-income family will lose around $90 worth of food stamps per month. Massachusetts Representative Jim McGovern said the reduction “will make hunger worse in America.”
The farm bill will certainly reduce food stamp benefits for millions of families. However, without a reasonable compromise the bill would have remained stalled. As it was approved by the House, the bill is expected to pass through the Senate as well.
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