The Farm Bill currently under consideration in the House would cut $20 billion from the Food Stamp program in a plan endorsed by both the House Ag Committee chairman, Frank Lucas, and his Democratic counterpart Collin Peterson. On the program Agritalk, one of the largest farm talk shows in the country, Lucas said today that eligible people would not get a dime less from the Food Stamp program. He said that the savings would come from making sure that the people getting assistance actually were eligible for food stamps.
Both Peterson and Lucas said on the show that the 2013 Farm Bill would likely get challenges from both the left and the right once it hits the floor of the House. They said that they were simply trying to find some middle ground and trying to get something done before the August recess so that planters would be able to make decisions about crops knowing what the picture would be like.
Lucas said in Politico that the cuts in question were similar to the type of requests made by the President, who wanted to see $38 billion in 10 years savings. Last year's version, which failed to pass, had $16 billion worth of cuts.
He said his $38 billion target owes a lot to Obama, and once the president set that 10-year target for agriculture savings in his own budget, Lucas wanted to match it.The New York Times reports that some Republican legislators want even deeper cuts:
“I was compelled to match his number. I’m saving $38 billion from the farm bill process,” Lucas said. “Yes he [Obama] is certainly focused on the side of the equation that raises the food not the consumption. I’m trying to be a little more equitable in my reform.”
During a committee vote last year, Mr. Lucas sided with Democrats and a few Republicans in defeating amendments to cut food stamps even more deeply, including one by Representative Tim Huelskamp, Republican of Kansas, that would have doubled the cuts in the program to $33 billion.In the meantime, the Times article notes that the Senate ag committee only wants $4 billion worth of cuts. One of the difficulties in getting such a bill passed will be reconciling the House version with the Senate version since the two bodies are very far apart on figures. And the deeper the cuts to Food Stamps, the more likely that such a bill will draw a Presidential veto.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, in the Times article, says that she will fight food stamp cuts again:
Ms. Gillibrand fought against cuts in the food stamp program in the Senate bill last year and proposed instead cutting the federal crop insurance program, which pays farmers for drops in crop yields or revenue.But Ryan Alexander of Taxpayers for Common Sense writes in US News & World Report that the cuts don't go far enough especially in the face of the sequester:
“So I don’t know under what world our colleagues think these cuts are acceptable, but tightening our belts around the waists of children and veterans and active duty service members is not how we should be balancing our debt and deficit,” she said during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.
While the rest of the government is bracing for sequestration cuts, the agriculture sector is asking for more money to be plowed into commodity price supports and federal crop insurance, a program that subsidizes nearly every business risk an agribusiness may face. The crop insurance industry deserves special recognition for brazen behavior: its lobbyists are also pushing the inclusion of expanded crop insurance subsidies and new entitlement programs to further guarantee profit margins and income levels over the next five years (called "shallow loss" programs), something that no other industry would dare ask for in this fiscal environment.Lucas said on Agritalk this morning that he was doing all he could to find middle ground on the 2013 Farm Bill despite the sequester. He said that his main focus was the multitrillion dollar deficit and doing his part to bring it down. But the risk in making cuts to Food Stamps is both political and economic -- more voters want Congress to focus on the economy than they do on the deficit. And the economic risk in cutting food stamps is that there will be a corresponding drop in economic activity that would lead to fewer jobs being created or retained.