The House passed an agriculture-only Farm Bill on Thursday, dropping food stamps from the bill entirely. Despite opposition from over 500 farm groups, the bill passed with a narrow vote of 218 to 208.
After the House rejected the renewal of the Farm Bill one month ago, House Republicans have been scrambling to remove the section from the bill that covers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Farm Bill has previously received bipartisan support where the needs of both rural and urban America were met in one bill. While the farming subsidies typically satisfied rural legislators, the food assistance program satisfied urban representatives. With the removal of food stamps from the bill, food assistance and food production become unnecessarily polarized, sending a disproportionally negative affect to the low-income families receiving food assistance.
The Farm Bill was originally created during the Great Depression to give financial aid to farmers during a time of excess crops and low profits. The 1933 Farm Bill, known as the Agricultural Adjustment Act, also included the nutrition program, which later became what we call food stamps today. In recent history the bill has received bipartisan revisions, in hopes of cutting spending yet still providing support to millions of farmers and families in need of nutritional assistance. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), chairwoman of the Senate Agricultural Committee, showed her criticism of Congress's most recent action by saying "for two years in a row, the Senate has passed a bipartisan Farm Bill that reforms programs, cuts spending, and creates jobs in American agriculture. If the House is serious about supporting rural America, they need to pass a comprehensive Farm Bill."
The separation of the bill is thought by Republicans to bring a fresh look to reforming the currently costly programs, according to House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla). However, public opinion and inaccurate portrayal of food in America will lead to future cuts on the food stamp program, an assistance program that made up roughly $750 billion in the previous Farm Bill. While farmers can rest assured that Americans support their subsidies — an estimated 77% of Americans support funding small farmers — families on food assistance face a different set of circumstances. There have been recent initiatives to increase restrictions for enrollment in SNAP, including work status requirements and drug testing. In addition to social stigma, families face Republicans' desired 3% financial cuts to the food assistance program, which would leave millions of families hungry.
This attack on the Farm Bill diminishes the small amount of bipartisanship left in Washington. While the direct effects to the bill won't be known immediately, the ripple effect will have drastic consequences for millions of American families counting on the assistance to feed their families.