Saturday, June 22, 2013

Why The Farm Bill Matters

The song says "it's hard out here on a pimp", but the truth is it's hard on everybody. Folks are struggling to keep a roof over their head and food on the table. Often times, we don't have time to follow everything that the Federal Government and Congress are doing that effects our lives. So it's no wonder many of us pay little attention to something like the Farm Bill which failed to pass the House of Representatives by a vote of 195-245. 

Let me tell you why the Farm Bill matters.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says the failure of the Farm Bill "proved the Democrats can't govern". Once again, he lied since one fourth of House Republicans voted against the legislation.

Let's go back and understand that the Farm Bill is the primary legislative tool which food and agricultural policy is made in our country. Throughout history, passing the Farm Bill has never been a problem and was a bipartisan effort.
The Republican controlled House of Representatives failed to pass a $500 Billion five year bill. The Senate bill would reduce spending by about $2.4 billion annually, compared with $3.8 billion in the failed House bill. Almost half the savings in the House bill would have come from a reduction in food stamp spending — the first major overhaul to the program since 1996.

The Senate and House Farm Bills both had provisions streamlining conservation programs, expanding the federally subsidized crop insurance program and slashing subsidy payments — including the elimination of the $5 billion a year in direct payments doled out to farmers regardless of whether they grow crops. In a bid to help Southern growers who depend on direct payments, each bill would set higher support prices for rice and peanut farmers, meaning growers would see subsidy payments kick in sooner.

But the divide between the Senate and the House on food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), will likely continue to be a sticking point in determining whether the farm bill passes.
Conservatives at the Heritage Foundation charged the Farm Bill was designed to "bankroll President Obama's food stamp agenda". Many Democrats say they could not support the bill which is built on drastic cuts to the most vulnerable Americans. House Republicans claim that even $20 million (over ten years) in SNAP cuts were not deep enough.
Once again radical conservative Republicans in the House failed to support a bipartisan effort to legislate to help low income families, including Black and Latino growers of fruits and vegetables, family farmers bringing healthy food to schools and farmer markets, and Native American farmers who bring healthy food to schools on the reservations.
The Senate has approved cuts of about $400 million a year and the House bill included a reduction of more than $2 billion. Republicans have pushed for even deeper cuts while Democrats have argued that a major spending reduction would hurt the 48 million Americans who depend on the program. Opponents of trimming food stamps have said millions of American senior citizens, people with disabilities, children or working moms and dads of those kids would no longer be able to participate in the program.

Farm groups expressed disappointment at the surprise defeat that has left their members struggling to plan ahead without knowing what agricultural policy will be. "Today's failure leaves the entire food and agriculture sector in the lurch," said Danny Murphy, president of the American Soybean Association. "Once again, the nation's soybean farmers and the 23 million Americans whose jobs depend on agriculture are left holding the bag."

Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs with the Environmental Working Group, said the failure to pass a new farm law should be a wake up call to lawmakers. "The full House was right to reject a bloated farm bill that increases subsidies for the largest and most successful farm businesses, while needlessly cutting programs designed to help feed the hungry and protect the environment," he said. "Many lawmakers simply couldn't support a bill that lacked real reforms."
Keep watching as the Republicans continue to wage war on the poorest Americans while funding bills that favor the richest and wealthiest citizens.

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