The Divorce of Food Stamps and the Farm Bill
On Thursday, the House passed a greatly reduced Farm Bill by cutting out the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), otherwise known as the food stamp program (FSP). What has traditionally been a bipartisan bill, this year’s Farm Bill is a reflection of the deep political divides between our country’s two major political parties and is a prime example of how these two different governing platforms plan on implementing their philosophies.
Since the 1970’s, the FSP has been incorporated with the Farm Bill, bridging the discussion between those who farm our food and those who need it. This consensus was set to continue when the Farm Bill, presented to the House last June, ended in a conservative defeat, polarizing Republican representatives. Most conservatives with Tea Party support voted down the bill, citing that there wasn’t enough spending cuts; most Democrats objected that cuts were too deep. Needless to say, the debate centered around the FSP which contains 80 percent of the Farm Bill’s total cost, translating to about $75 billion in federal spending.
To regain conservative cohesiveness, Republican lawmakers simply cut out the controversial portion (the FSP) and took another vote. The vote split down party lines and passed with a 216 to 208 tally.
All in all, the route to the passing of this bill was messy, especially for conservatives; but, let’s not worry about how we got here. Let’s worry about the question at hand:
Should the Farm Bill, which sets down the bylaws for farming subsidies and insurance among other agricultural related issues, be separated from food stamp regulation?
Shortly after the passing of the current bill, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain weighed in by posting this statement:
“I am pleased to learn the House of Representatives approved the Farm Bill. Our farmers and ranchers must have stability in order to manage risk and continue to feed America and much of the world with a bountiful, safe and reasonably priced product. On a national level, I have long advocated separating the farm commodity title from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and debating them as the separate issues they are…”
The last sentence from the commissioner nails it: These two issues are large enough to stand on their own. Grouping the issues together only blurs the strengths and weaknesses of each program, making it harder for our lawmakers to adequately install pragmatic programs for the benefit of our citizens. If one program, such as the FSP, costs $75 billion dollars, then we should talk about that program specifically, not hide smaller yet very necessary programs under it.
Let’s not bundle our problems together; instead, we should bring all these topics to light. Are farm insurance subsidies in the Farm Bill practical? Or, are they wrought with fraud? The same questions go to the Food Stamp Program.
Real solutions present themselves only when we dissect each program and its problems. Hopefully, the current round of political wrangling will set the stage for adequate solutions; a situation we Americans find ourselves praying and crossing our fingers for more and more often.
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