After two years of inaction, House passes $1 trillion farm bill
After two years of partisan deadlock, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a comprehensive farm bill today that includes a basket full of programs, including funding for food stamps, foreign aid and subsidies for American farmers.
The bill authorizes almost $1 trillion in spending over the next 10 years, but it contains cuts to many programs. Estimates vary as to how much the new bill will save, with projections ranging from $16.6 billion to $23 billion in savings over the next 10 years.
All seven of Alabama's representatives voted for the bill, which Congress must renew every five years and has been overdue for more than a year. Support for the bill, which passed 251-166, was bipartisan.
"After three years of hard work, today the House finally passed a Farm Bill that provides certainty for our nation's farmers and institutes money-saving reforms to agriculture and nutrition policy that we've needed for some time," Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, said.
The bill will make cuts to several programs, including food stamps – known as Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP – and what's known as "direct payment" to farmers.
Direct payment has been a political target of President Barack Obama and fiscally conservative Republicans, alike. In essence, the program, which costs about $5 billion per year, has paid farmers whether they grew crops or not.
The new farm bill ends that practice, and shifts some of that funding to subsidized insurance programs and disaster relief for farmers.
Supporters of the change argued that the new bill rewards farmers who grow crops and weeds out freeloaders who do nothing for a government check.
The bill also cuts food stamp funding by about 1 percent, or $8 billion over 10 years.
Some Republicans had sought deeper cuts to SNAP and the issue had been a sticking point during negotiations.
Alabama's lone Democratic representative, Rep. Terri Sewell, lamented the cuts to food stamps, but said she supported the compromise.
"While I am disappointed that this legislation doesn't invest new resources in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, I voted for this bill because it strikes a compromise that provides a 5 year agreement that gives our farmers and consumers the certainty they deserve," she said in a press release after the vote Wednesday.
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