Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

'As You Sow, So Shall You Reap'

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

'As You Sow, So Shall You Reap'

Article excerpt

Will Congress cut food stamps, conservation, and the farmer safety net-or fail to pass a Farm Bill at all?

THE FARM BILL has a profound impact on farming and nutri tion. Three key things the multi-faceted bill provides are: a safety net for farmers, incentives for conservation pra ctices, and food assistance for lowincome fami lies. Congress writes the farm bill every five to six years; the most recent Farm Bill, approved in 2008, expires Ocl. I.

At present, nearly 80 percent of the bill's roughly S I 00 bill ion a year in spending goes to the food-assistance category. most notably to food stamps- the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which now helps feed 46 million people in the U.S. Less than 10 percent of current Farm Bill fun ding supports , .. ater and soil conservation practices, such as no-till farming and preserving wetlands and grasslands,

In the past, a significant parI of the bill has been commodity payments made under various programs to farme rs of crops such as corn, wheat. rice, cotton, and soybeans (but not fruits or vegetables). As farm ers are currently benefiting from high grain prices, while the government faces budget deficits, the next I:arm Bill seems poised to recognize that the time has come to end commodity payments.

However, farme rs, challenged by volatile swings in crop prices and by uncertain weather, st ill need a safety net. In lieu of commodity payments, the Senate version of the Farm Bill, passed in late June, moves toward subsidizing crop in surancl.', which covers farmerS-including fruit and vegetable growers-against both poor yields and poor prices.

The Senate version of the bill includes culs in conservation and food stampsbut not as severe as what the House has in mind. Ifpresen t policies had continued. Fa rm Bill spending was projected to be nearly $1 trillion over the next decade. The Senate bill cuts apprOXimately $23 bil lion from that IO-year lotal. In May, thc House Agriculture Committee said it was aiming to cut approximately $33 billion.

Some House Republicans have argued that the full $33 billion should be cut from food stamps. Chair Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) has reportedly suggested his committee will look for cuts in other areas as well.

At press lime, it was not dear how a House bill, once out of committee, could pass a floor vale: Some members seem strongly committed to deep cuts and others insist they will hold firm on government assistance to nutrition, the farmer safety net, or conservation. …

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