Stephen Fincher is a cotton farmer and a gospel singer from a family of cotton farmers and gospel singers. He also has a seat in Congress as the representative for Tennessee’s 8th district.

Fincher is a member of the House Agriculture Committee with an assignment on the Nutrition Subcommittee that oversees the food stamps program, SNAP. He’s a member of the House Financial Services Committee, too.

With the passage of the Agriculture bill in Congress yesterday, $8 billion will be cut from SNAP but Fincher comes out a big winner. Over the years, he collected $3.5 million in US Dept of Agriculture subsidies, mainly for his cotton crop, and the bill that was passed yesterday includes valuable protection against future financial risk, specifically for cotton farmers like Fincher.

On his House webpage, Fincher’s clean-scrubbed face is smiling with a panoramic photo of cotton fields behind him. In one of his “Opinion Pieces” he says:

“Many have fallen into a dangerous trap of turning to Washington to solve every problem  . . . Instead of trying to redefine the role of government; America needs to get back its core values that believe the strength and ability of the individual is far greater than the government’s.”
Fincher’s district on the Mississippi River in west Tennessee is mainly rural and poor. It includes a handful of counties that are in the nationwide top 10% for SNAP participation. In some areas, a third of the population uses the program.

His district is outlined in red on the map of Tennessee below. The counties are shaded by SNAP participation rate with the greatest proportion of recipients where the color is darkest.

Tennessee county map with SNAP participation.

Stephen Fincher sets a standard for hypocrisy and corruption in Congress and there's no shortage of competition. Read on to find out how he came out ahead with the passage of the farm subsidy bill.

When the Agriculture bill was debated in the Senate yesterday, four Democrats, Durbin, Mikulski, Stabenow, and Bennett, delivered the same kool-aid. They said the bill would end direct payment subsidies. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) contradicted them. (p. S713)

"This conference report purports to end direct payments but ends them in name only for cotton. Let’s be clear. It simply renames direct payments for cotton for 2 years. They will now be called transition payments. Cotton growers will continue to receive payments until—wait for it—the other new subsidy programs created in this report come online . . .  It would appear that for some commodities, there will always be a transition from something to something else that will result in a taxpayer-funded handout."
Flake was talking about the Stacked Income Protection Plan for cotton farmers that the Democrats forgot to mention during the debate.  The same bill that cuts $8 billion from SNAP creates a new kind of federally subsidized crop insurance for producers of upland cotton.

The bill passed yesterday was the product of a negotiated reconciliation between the prior House and Senate versions. The Senate [Democratic] bill would have ended direct payments immediately. The House [Republican] bill would have phased them out by September 30, 2016.

Since the negotiation wasn't open to the public, there's no way to know how the following agreement was reached.

  1. The conference report includes the direct payments from the House version of the bill but it refers to them as  “Transition assistance for producers of upland cotton.”
  2. The report agrees to make the transition assistance payable through September 30, 2016, effectively giving the House Republicans what they wanted.
  3. The conference report goes beyond what the House Republicans passed in their bill. It continues federal assistance for cotton farmers beyond 2016 by offering, Stacked Income Protection Plans (STAX), a new type of crop insurance policy with federal subsidies to cover most of the premium cost. With STAX, cotton growers like Fincher will be protected against the risk of financial loss, courtesy of the US taxpayers.

Until now Fincher has been an outspoken opponent of government-subsidized insurance policies like the ones that protect his constituents from the financial risk of costly healthcare they may need. However, he has no objection against government-subsidized insurance policies that will protect his farm. He voted in favor of the Agriculture bill.

Fincher isn’t going to be the only beneficiary of the new government funded STAX but he deserves scrutiny.  

A year ago, he sponsored and introduced the Welfare Integrity Act of 2013, a bill that would require Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to conduct random testing of applicants and recipients for illegal drug use.

Last September, he voted in favor of the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act. The bill was an assault on SNAP that was too extreme even for some Republicans. If passed, it would make 90% of the program's current recipients ineligible. Remember that the overwhelming majority of SNAP benefits provide food for children, the elderly, and the disabled. The program is at risk with Fincher in a position where he can do damage.

He also sponsored and introduced a bill that would rush the approval process for genetically modified biotech crops and grant automatic approval if the Dept. of Agriculture doesn't meet a 90-day deadline for doing so. It would also relax standards for the importing, exporting, and the transport domestically of genetically modified biotech crops.

Despite the millions Fincher collected in farm subsidies, and his $174,000 salary as a House representative, and more than $100,000 in annual income from other sources he reported on his personal financial disclosure, he is listed as one of the poorest members of Congress. When he ran for election, he refused to release any copies of his income tax returns.

There's an investigation here that's waiting to be done.

Originally posted to researchandanalyze on Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 02:32 PM PST.

Also republished by Three Star Kossacks and Community Spotlight.

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