After a year of bickering, Congress is on the verge of passing a five-year farm bill with $1 trillion in funding for agricultural subsidies, crop insurance and food stamps. This is good news, considering House Republicans’ recent track record with farm bills (the last one went up in flames when even rank-and-file Republicans wouldn’t vote for it), but fact that it took over a year to negotiate what used to be a routine piece of legislation is yet another disgraceful indictment on the incompetent mess that is the United States Congress.
For months, House Republicans had been pushing for a farm bill that would have cut funding for food stamps (SNAP) by $39 billion. The new bill, which the House is expected to vote on Wednesday, cuts the program by $8.6 billion instead, but part of that will be offset with state funds, and in totality, only 4 percent of 45 million Americans on food stamps will be affected. The specifics of who gets hit by the these cuts is somewhat complex, but in essence, it raises eligibility requirements for a certain subset of SNAP recipients — specifically, those who receive home heating aid.
The liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has given the proposal a tepid endorsement, proclaiming that it “drops the draconian House provisions — and removes virtually no low-income households from SNAP.” It’s also worth noting that although the bill cuts food stamps spending, it also contains what remains of those funds. In other words, failing to pass it would result in zero funding for food stamps whatsoever.
The bill, which also contains $200 million in funding for food banks, was negotiated by Senate and House leaders from both parties, and is expected to pass both chambers sometime later this week.