GOP Farm Bill Would Slash Funds for Hungry Americans and Organic Farmers

The draft Farm Bill released by the GOP-controlled House Agriculture Committee Thursday would reduce spending by $3.5 billion a year, predominantly hitting the federal food stamp program, reports The Washington Post.

House Republicans are also taking aim at programs designed to help organic farmers cope with the increased costs of complying with regulations.

"This is an anti-reform bill — bad for family farmers, rural communities, and the environment," said Ferd Hoefner, the Policy Director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. "It will need to be reworked very substantially to gain the support of our coalition of farm and rural groups as the process moves forward.”

The Farm Bill is a massive piece of legislation that is renewed and updated every five years, affecting everything from agricultural subsidies to research to food stamps.

The 2008 bill carried a $300 billion price tag, and this year’s bill may reach reach almost $1 trillion. Because of its sheer size, the farm bill has been the subject of hot debate in recent months, as Democrats and Republicans in Congress disagree on what policies to cut or fix.

The House GOP proposal contains heavy cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program _ otherwise known as food stamps.  The hefty federal program — which feeds one in seven Americans — requires $80 million every year, the majority of spending costs in the farm bill.

According to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and ranking member Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., their version of the farm bill saves more than $35 billion and cuts $16 billion from food stamps.

“Our efforts over the past two years have resulted in reform-minded, fiscally responsible policy,” Lucas said in a statement.

Yet a number of groups disagree, stating that the Republican bill is “anti-reform” and only serves to give more subsidy money to already-wealthy farmers while cutting nutrition and conservation programs.

 “Cutting Nutrition Assistance? Really?” writes Sara Sciammacco of the Environmental Working Group in a post on its site. “More Americans than ever before rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, and nearly half of SNAP beneficiaries are kids.”

In comparison, the Democrat-led Senate version of the farm bill only cuts $8 billion from food stamps, saving a total of $23 billion. The Senate bill already passed that chamber on June 21 with a 64-35 vote. However, it will be difficult to reconcile the two versions: it’s unlikely conservatives in the House will agree to these lighter cuts to food stamps.

The Republican proposal also repeals a program known as "cost share" designed to help organic farmers comply with the cost of federal regulations. 

“Organic is one of the fastest growing sectors of agriculture,” said Hoefner. “A repeal of organic certification cost share is an attack on this growth.”

The current farm bill expires on Sept. 30, giving lawmakers not much time to come to a compromise. The House will begin working on its bill July 11.

What do you think should be trimmed in the farm bill to reduce costs? Let us know in the comments below.  

Kelly Zhou is a student and Bay Area native who loves online multimedia and politics. Email Kelly | @kellyzhou