Farm Bill Compromise Would Cut Spending, Food Stamps

A proposal for a new five-year Farm Bill was announced by House and Senate negotiators Monday. It cuts food stamps by $8 billion over the next decade.

Farm Bill Compromise Would Cut Spending, Food Stamps
Wikimedia Commons / Joevilliers

A new five-year Farm Bill proposed by lawmakers would mean a big cut to food stamps over the next decade.

The Washington Post reports the 950-page compromise bill will cut $23 billion in federal spending on agriculture. In part, this will be accomplished by ending direct payments to farmers and consolidating Agriculture Department programs.

But it also involves trimming the SNAP food stamp program by about $8 billion, or 1 percent, over the next ten years. It's a provision which has sparked a lot of controversy from both sides of the aisle.

"The farm bill would force 850,000 households, 1.7 million men, women, children and veterans across America to go hungry." (Via C-SPAN)

"Unfortunately, the 1 percent cut doesn't reflect the type of reforms that would be necessary to put this program that has grown dramatically in recent years on a prudent course." (Via Fox Business)

Cutting back on food stamps has been a contentious part of the debate surrounding the Farm Bill. House Republicans originally tried to slash the program by $40 billion last summer. Senate Democrats responded with a much more modest $4 billion cut.

According to a joint statement by the House and Senate's agricultural committees, the $8 billion SNAP compromise was reached by closing loopholes and cracking down on fraud. "Savings in this section are reached without removing anyone from the SNAP program, and will ensure that every person receives the benefits they are intended to get under the current rules of the program."

Food stamps aren't the only controversial part of the bill. Politico reports the bill has come under fire major pork, beef and poultry lobbies, which are upset over a failure to delay new regulations.

And Montana State University's professor of farm economics told The New York Times the bill doesn't do enough to cut back on agricultural subsidies. "It's a classic bait-and-switch. ... They’ve eliminated the politically toxic direct payments program and added the money to a program that will provide farmers with even larger subsidies."

But Roll Call points out the deal should still get a lot of support from lawmakers — major bipartisan bills like this one are a welcome sight after 2013's notoriously dysfunctional Congress.

 "The deal doesn’t exactly portend a return to the 'good old days,' but Monday’s conference agreement suggests that the system sometimes still functions, albeit belatedly."

The bill is expected to go before the House Wednesday. It's not clear when the bill will reach the Senate.