Congress Fails to Act on Farm Bill as Deadline Nears
By Quinn Ford, with additional reporting from The Associated Press
Congressman Tim Johnson (R-Urbana) wants fellow lawmakers to vote on a new farm bill very soon before it expires on Sept. 30. Johnson is a member of the House Agriculture Committee, where the farm bill has sat since July.
The committee passed a version that would cut approximately $16 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as food stamps, that currently serves 46 million people.
Some House Republicans say those cuts do not go far enough, while some Democrats say they go too far. Johnson said he could not comment on why House leaders have yet to call the bill for a vote, but he said the repercussions would be costly if the House does not act soon.
“We’d go back to the farm bill of the 1930s which would be horribly irresponsible, tremendously costly to the government and really contain none of the protections that are built into the current bill,” Johnson said. “It would be, to put it mildly, a major setback for agricultural policy.”
Johnson said the farm bill would set agricultural policy for the next five years. In addition to outlining food stamps, the bill provides crop insurance and other safety nets for farmers as well as research grants for biotechnology.
The U.S. Senate already passed its version of the farm bill in June.
Congressman Bobby Schilling (R-Colona) also sits on the House Agriculture Committee. He said about 78 percent of funding for programs covered in the farm bill goes towards food stamps. Lawmakers have said the cuts to the SNAP program will come from eliminating “waste” like ensuring lottery winners and certain college students do not receive SNAP benefits.