With our country facing so many issues both domestic and abroad, one issue that affects millions of citizens might have either escaped you or you might think that it’s really not that important in the great scheme of things. You would be wrong. Congress adjourned without passing a new farm bill, due to expire the end of September.
Not a farmer? Don’t stop reading! While I could wax poetic over the life of being married to a farmer or how the Farm Bill affects him and countless other farmers across the country, I want to focus on how this bill is important to you and all Americans.
SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—aka Food Stamps) is included in the Farm Bill and falls under the jurisdiction of the USDA. Over 80 percent of the $1 TRILLION budget allocated in the Farm Bill of 2012 is dedicated to food stamps. Don’t worry if you didn’t know that; most Americans aren’t aware, either.
In the 1970’s, the number of people on food stamps was one in fifty; today, one in seven are enrolled. That basically adds up to over 46.6 million people receiving assistance. Rebekah Rast puts this in perspective when she quotes Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. in an article for RightNetDaily: “Spending on this program increased 100 percent from 2001 to 2006, a period during which there was no increase in the rate of unemployment. From 2007 to 2011, spending increased another 135 percent.” (Emphasis mine) With the huge deficit our nation faces, both Republicans and Democrats realize that cuts must be made to SNAP; where they disagree is how deep those cuts should go.
According to House Speaker Sen. John Boehner, “The current situation that we face is that we’ve got people who believe there’s not enough reform in the Farm Bill that came out of committee… But when we get back we will deal with the issue of the farm bill.”
What were these reforms? The Senate passed a bill that would have cut four million dollars a year from food stamps and the House Agriculture Committee went even further, wanting cuts of 1.6 billion in the budget. Naturally, they do not want to face the wrath of those opposing any cuts.
So, they’re waiting until after the election to make unpopular decisions during the Lame Duck Session and therein lies the reason for Congress leaving Washington before passing a new Farm Bill: Politics…and it has nothing to do with farmers.