The top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee said Monday that a Republican-crafted bill that calls for spending cuts and tighter eligibility restrictions to the food stamp program will hold back efforts to pass a long-term farm bill.
Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., accused House GOP leaders of "catering to the extremes of their party" over their decision to hold a Wednesday vote on legislation calling for $40 billion in food stamp cuts over 10 years instead of working with the Senate to hammer out a compromise between the two chambers' bills.“Instead of appointing farm bill conferees, the Republican leadership has decided to move forward with an unnecessary and divisive nutrition bill," Peterson said Monday. "Even if this bill is defeated, as it should be, I worry the debate will eliminate any remaining goodwill needed to pass a farm bill."
Funding for food stamps and farmers aid typically are both included in multi-year "farm bills." But Republicans decided to take up the food stamp provision separately after they were unable to win support this summer for a broad farm bill because of differences over how much to cut food stamps, formally called the the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The House eventually passed a food stamp-less farm bill largely along party lines, and the Senate approved a comprehensive farm bill with broad bipartisan support.
But with current farm policies expiring at month's end, Peterson accused House GOP leaders of holding farmers hostage and insisting on "pushing messaging bills to nowhere."
"It’s time to get serious," he said. "If they will just get out of our way, the House and Senate agriculture committees can work together and provide farmers, ranchers and consumers the certainty of a five-year farm bill.”
The House bill is unlikely to draw Democratic support, but Republicans like it because it would help curb a dramatic increase in food stamp use, which is up by more than 70 percent since 2008.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has vowed that "no individual who meets the income and asset guidelines of the [food stamp] program and is willing to comply with applicable work requirements will lose benefits as a result of these reforms."