Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, said Wednesday it’s time to take food stamps out of the farm bill.
“We have to split these two up, because we cannot deal with ag policy correctly, whether it’s dairy or sugar or the commodity titles, until we have a real honest discussion about the programs,” Stutzman, a LaGrange County farmer and a member of the House Agriculture Committee, said in a phone interview Wednesday.
A proposal by Sen. Ron Johnson, D-Wis., to separate food stamps – officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – from the farm bill was voted down by the Democratic Senate in June.
The five-year renewal of commodity and nutrition programs is stalled in Congress in large part because of disagreements over how much money, if any, should be cut from food stamps. SNAP accounts for about $80 billion in federal spending a year, or roughly 80 percent of farm bill appropriations.
“Farmers are caught up in this big monstrosity of a bill, and they’re just trying to get small changes, modest changes, that aren’t even happening,” Stutzman said.
“SNAP is the big driver,” he said.
The Senate passed an ag bill in June that would trim $4 billion from SNAP over 10 years. The House Agriculture Committee approved $16.5 billion in cuts last month. Stutzman voted against the House plan and said Wednesday he favors $33 billion in SNAP reductions.
The Food Research and Action Center, a non-profit public-policy group, has opposed the House bill. A spokeswoman was unavailable for comment Wednesday on separating SNAP from the farm bill.
Both the Senate and House bills would end direct payments to farmers and expand insurance programs to cover financial losses from drops in crop prices or yields.
Lacking a consensus in the House, congressional leaders announced this week they planned to extend the 2008 farm bill for another year. But it appears the House will instead vote today on only providing drought relief to livestock producers. That aid ended in the last year of the current farm bill, which expires Sept. 30.
Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., and Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, made recent speeches on Capitol Hill urging the House to pass a farm bill.
Andy Fisher, spokesman for Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said this week in an email, “The Senate version would certainly be preferable” to an extension or the bill approved by the House Agriculture Committee. Lugar is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.