Farm bill battle lines drawn on food stamps

Historic food coupons. Photo: National Museum of American History, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Tuesday afternoon, in a conference call with reporters, New York Democrat and Senate Agriculture committee member Kirsten Gillibrand laid out her priorities for a new farm bill. She discussed plenty of policy to help farmers, from revamping the milk marketing orders to strengthening crop insurance for "specialty" crops, like cabbage and apples.

But the one moment when Gillibrand became truly empassioned was when she was talking about her determination to preserve the food stamp program in its entirety:

I don’t know under what world our colleagues think these cuts are acceptable, but tightening our belts around the waists of children and veterans and active duty service members is not how we should be balancing our debt and deficit.

The Senate bill markup cuts $4.1 billion from the SNAP program, also known as food stamps. But that's nothing compared to what House leadership wants to do. House Agriculture committee chairman Frank Lucas told Politico he's aiming for a $20 billion cut over the life of the farm bill:

The bottom line is: I sincerely believe this $20 billion won’t take a calorie off the plate of anyone who’s qualified.

And Lucas concedes the conservative wing of his caucus will want deeper cuts still.

Meanwhile, the conservative Heritage Foundation has seized on an article in the left-leaning Salon about "hipsters on food stamps", paying for "organic salmon with government subsidies". Heritage spokesman Dan Holler calls it an example of "fraudulent food stamp nation".

Congress failed to pass a farm bill last year. That makes the stakes even higher for all sides this year.

Battles will be fought over farm subsidies and crop insurance, conservation programs and aid to sustainable farms and dairy programs that House Speaker John Boehner famously called 'Soviet style" last summer.

But the real marshalling of forces will happen over food stamps, with both the Right and the Left flexing their idelogical muscles.



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One Comment

  1. hipsters on foodstamps should only be allowed to buy two-liter bottles of coke or big bags of potato chips.