07/05/13 — Farm vote hits snags

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Farm vote hits snags

By Ethan Smith
Published in News on July 5, 2013 1:46 PM

A proposed farm bill approved by the U.S.Senate has stagnated in the House and remains in limbo.

The bill, which governs the nation's agricultural and nutrition programs for five years, was defeated two weeks ago in the House by a 234-195 vote. One of the main reasons for its failure was a nearly $21 billion cut in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, which would have eliminated food assistance to nearly two million citizens.

"Right now I think they're just trying to revive it in the House," said Brian Long, director of public affairs with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture.

According to Long, some non-agriculture measures included in the bill have sparked controversy and might have to be included in other legislation before the farm bill itself can find approval.

The decision to cut food stamps has been widely criticized, and the defeat of the version of the bill cutting the benefits was praised by Congressman G.K. Butterfield of Wilson in a press release.

"We have a responsibility to our fellow Americans to help care for them in their time of need," Butterfield said. "I applaud the 62 House Republicans who joined us in rejecting this poison pill of a bill."

In both the House and Senate versions of the bill, $5 billion paid to farmers and landowners, regardless of whether or not they plant crops, would have been cut from and added to the $9 billion crop insurance program. New subsidies would have been created for peanut, cotton and rice farmers, and it would have restored insurance for livestock producers, which expired in 2011.

The House bill would have cut projected spending by $40 billion. About half of that money was set to be cut from the food assistance program.

Lawmakers did approve two amendments to the bill in hopes of reaching a compromise: One allows states to drug test food stamp applicants, and the other requires food stamp recipients to meet federal welfare work requirements.

In January, the 2008 version of the bill was extended, allowing direct payments to farmers to continue. That extension expires at the end of September.