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Food-Stamp Revival Spurned as House Panel Approves Farm Bill

May 16, 2013
capitol cherry tree

The House version of the bill would cost $940 billion.

Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee failed to restore cuts in federal food-stamp spending as the panel approved yesterday a $940 billion bill reauthorizing U.S. Department of Agriculture programs.

The measure, sent to the House floor on a 36-10 vote, would cut $40 billion in the next decade by eliminating $20.5 billion over that period for nutrition programs including food stamps -- five times as much as proposed in a Senate Agriculture Committee plan approved earlier this week.

Food stamp spending was $78.4 billion in 2012. Farm subsidies and environmental initiatives would be cut in both versions, and crop insurance would increase $8.9 billion in the House version and $5 billion in the Senate plan.

"Farmers, ranchers and American taxpayers are counting on us to pass a farm bill," House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, an Oklahoma Republican, said before the vote. "This committee will mark up a reform-minded bill that was developed with true bipartisanship."

The House farm-policy bill, like the Senate’s, includes $6.4 billion in mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration that began taking effect March 1. Crop subsidies benefiting buyers such as Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. and food stamps subsidizing purchases at Supervalu Inc. are targets for lawmakers seeking to trim the deficit.

"No other committee in Congress is voluntarily cutting money, in a bipartisan way, from its jurisdiction to reduce the size and scope of the federal government," Lucas said in a statement released after yesterday’s vote.

Senate Debate

The Senate will begin debate on its $955 billion measure on May 20, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said yesterday. The House may vote on its plan as soon as next month, giving the parties time to negotiate a bill before current law expires on Sept. 30, said Representative Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the House committee’s top Democrat.

Lawmakers are seeking to pass a new law after failing to renew farm policy last year. The Senate passed legislation that included the first major reductions in farm aid since 1996. The measure died in the House, where Republican leaders wanted deeper cuts to food stamps. The current law, passed in 2008, was extended until September.

Funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, has again become the debate’s most divisive and emotional issue. The committee defeated a bid by Representative Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, to restore money cut from food stamps. The vote was 17-27.

Poverty, Unemployment

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