Kick the can game getting tired for farm bill allies

09/09/2013 10:33:00 PM
Tom Karst

Tom KarstGetting traction on finalizing the farm bill continues to be difficult, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. again showed her frustration with the House leadership today.

In a statement released by her office, Sen. Stabenow of course called on House leadership to announce their conferees and officially begin conferencing the farm bill before the current farm bill expires on Sept. 30.

Both the House and Senate have passed versions of the farm bill, but the House did not include funding for food stamps in their bill. House Republican leadership has not yet appointed conferees to finish the farm bill with the Senate, since they want to make cuts to the nutrition title before sending the bill to conference.

From the release, Stabenow said:

 “It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road and leaving rural America and 16 million jobs hanging in uncertainty. The Senate has agreed to go to conference and appointed conferees, and whenever the House decides to do the same we can move forward and finish the Farm Bill.

 “I do not support an extension because it is bad policy that yields no deficit reduction, no reform and does nothing to help American agriculture create jobs. It’s time to do the work we were sent here to do and finally finish this Farm Bill.”

  

House Republicans may not heed Stabenow’s call for action, and they can offer up plenty of excuses why it can’t get done, namely the debate over action in Syria and the looming debate over raise the debt limit.

The Heritage Foundation and other conservative groups are pushing for a straight extension, summing up the argument like this:

In September, there will be only nine legislative days in the House before some farm bill programs expire at the end of the month. Even during a relatively quiet legislative period, this small window to develop real reform would be insufficient. As the debt ceiling looms and the nation could become militarily engaged in Syria, developing real reform becomes impossible.

Further, the existing farm bills passed by the House and Senate are flawed, so going to conference with these bills would only lead to bad policy. Therefore, the best option now is a new extension of the 2008 farm bill.

 

House Republicans also want to bring their measure to the floor cutting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funding that has been a part of the farm bill reauthorization. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities – a policy group oriented toward low income Americans - has examined the Republican proposal in this Sept. 6 post  and found it wanting. From the piece:

House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has released more details of the House Republican leadership proposal to cut SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the food stamp program), by at least $40 billion over ten years — double the cut in the House Agriculture Committee farm bill and almost nine times the SNAP cut in the Senate-passed farm bill.. The proposal is expected to go to the House floor in coming days.

The proposal incorporates all of the SNAP cuts and other nutrition provisions of the farm bill that House leaders sought unsuccessfully to pass in June, which would cut $20.5 billion from SNAP over ten years. It also adds new provisions designed to cut at least another $20 billion in benefits, primarily by eliminating states’ ability to secure waivers for high-unemployment areas from SNAP’s austere rule that limits benefits for jobless adults without children to just three months out of every three years.

 

Just how soon the Republican proposal on food stamps will be brought to the floor is in doubt, however, because of the aforementioned debate on Syria. Without real resolve to deal with the nutrition title in the farm bill by House Republicans soon, the can will be kicked down the road, and another extension will be required by the end of September.



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