A US Food Stamps bill battle between the Senate and House of Representatives has delayed the last stage of the long-delayed U.S. farm bill.
On Friday members of the House agreed to open negotiations with the Senate over the final version of the five-year, $500 billion bill.
The farm bill includes a 10 percent expansion of federally subsidized crop insurance. However, the bill also includes a food stamps portion that helps feed more than 47.8 million Americans on an average of $133 a month. The Republican-controlled House has expressed its desire to cut the food stamps program by $39 billion over the next decade. The Democrat-controlled Senate wants to see a cut of 10 times less.
Democrats argue that the Republican plan under the new bill would cut 4 million Americans out of the food stamps bill by 2014.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has led the way towards the food stamps bill cuts, while Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican said on Friday, “We believe by reforming food stamps we will save the program for the truly needy.”
House Democrats in the meantime have used the Republican-led cuts to highlight the party as cold-hearted and disconnected..
Jim Clyburn of South Carolina takes issue with working in the bill that requires food stamp applicants to take a drug test. He suggests, “You ought to test all those people getting farm subsidies and see if they are deserving of federal benefits.”
House Republicans has suggesting splitting the farm bill in two for review in the future. Under the plan the food stamps bill portion would be reviewed every three years, while agriculture programs would be thrown into a five-year cycle. Nutrition and farm subsidies have been tied together since the 1970s.
At this time Congress is a full year behind in completing a successor to the 2008 farm bill which ended one year ago and was revived in early 2013. The new farm bill was shutdown with the government stalemate that has furloughed hundreds of thousands of workers.
In the meantime Tea-Party-influenced Republicans have demanded even further cuts that would reduce the program by more than $20 billion.
In June Democrats voted en mass against food stamp bill cuts. That vote marked the first time that the House defeated a farm bill.
Under the current farm bill farmers must practice soil conservation to qualify for premium subsidies on crop insurance. The wealthiest growers who earn more than $750,000 adjusted gross income per year would also play a larger share of the premium.
Crop insurance costs taxpayers $9 billion annually.
Do you think Congress should separate the food stamps bill and farm bill?