Three days ago, a food stamp only bill passed in the House without a single democratic vote. The bill contained provisions to subject those receiving food stamps to drug testing, mandatory work or work training provisions, and cuts of up to $40 million. Additionally, the food stamp bill is only authorized for three years, further separating the farm and food portion of the farm bill with different expirations dates for the two.
Now, the two portions of the bill finally proceed to a conference committee with the much more traditional Senate farm bill. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan and chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee says the new provisions have little chance of advancing in the Senate and called the effort “a monumental waste of time.”
That the Senate disagrees with the House passed bill and that the two are so different only signals a longer conference committee debate, which is exactly what farmers don’t need. The current farm bill extension expires one week from today.
Long term, the decoupling of the food stamps and farm policy portions of the farm bill does not benefit farmers. Fewer and fewer Congressmen represent rural districts as more and more Americans move to more populated areas. With less representation from agriculture in the House and Senate, food stamps typically help the farm bill as a whole to get passed.
The whole process is one to watch if you are a farmer. Not only is this nearly historic farm bill disaster a study in the dysfunction in Washington, DC, but it is also the foundation upon which the future generations on your farm will be built. Stay tuned.