The farm bill has failed to pass the House of Representatives not once, but twice, in the last year, largely due to debates over food stamp funding. As a result, House Republicans opted for a radical new tactic: split the massive farm bill into two bills — one for agriculture-related titles and the other for SNAP, or food stamps.
After an unremitting debate yesterday, the House Republicans' "farm-only" bill passed with 216-to-208 votes. All Democrats voted in opposition.
In theory, the pared-down bill will make it easier to finally pass a new farm bill through both the House and Senate, but unsurprisingly, the split bill resulted in a firestorm of criticism — from Democrats, farm groups and the President.
Not only is the nutrition title left behind, the agriculture side of the House's version also repeals current permanent farm law (in which the bill reverts to 1949 legislation if a new farm bill is not passed), eradicating part of the built-in incentive to continually update this unwiedly piece of legislature. Below are reactions to the House GOP’s divided farm bill:
When the plan to cut SNAP out of the farm bill was first announced, chef and co-founder of Wholesome Wave, Michel Nischan, lamented on Facebook:
“It's numbing to see the White House silent on the über-conservative move to split food stamps from the farm bill — with the obvious intention of gutting the program once the farm bill passes.”
Later on Wednesday, the President’s office issued this statement, saying the President would veto the bill if it passed without a nutrition title:
“It is apparent, though, that the bill does not contain sufficient commodity and crop insurance reforms and does not invest in renewable energy, an important source of jobs and economic growth in rural communities across the country.”
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) was quoted late Wednesday night, saying:
“I’ve got to achieve a majority consensus,” he said. “Maybe it's time to do something different.”
Reuters quoted Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D-NC):
"Republicans are determined to de-fund nutrition assistance. Shame on you."
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) sent out a list before Thursday's vote with 10 reasons why the “farm-only” bill should be rejected.
Agriculture writer Jerry Hagstrom reported Thursday morning that the American Farm Bureau Federation also told members to vote against the bill because of the lack of a nutrition title and the repeal of permanent law.
"A vote for this bill is a vote to end nutrition in America."
In other food news this week:
- Mexico has surpassed the U.S. in adult obesity rates.
- President Obama announces his favorite food, and the winner is…broccoli?
- More scary news about antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in livestock, via Mark Bittman.
- Food companies are adjusting their products to suit Americans’ growing love of ethnic flavors (think Campbell’s “Chicken & Quinoa” soup).
- And just in this morning: industrial hemp may soon break ground — yesterday's passing of the farm bill approves research.