Farm bill defeat both good and bad

Published Jun 26, 2013 at 7:45 am (Updated Jun 25, 2013 at 10:49 am)

For the second year in a row, the United States House of Representatives was unable to agree upon and pass the Food, Farm and Jobs Bill. The proposal to reauthorize the bill was defeated – surprisingly, according to many – 234-195. Depending on how one looks at it, this is both a good and bad thing.

Good, because passing the bill would have meant cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also referred to as food stamps). Budgets for free school meals would have been slashed, and the Every Child Matters Education Fund estimated that some 210,000 children would have lost their free school meals.

The free school meal program helps so many children who might not get a healthy, balanced meal outside of school. For these children, it could also be their only opportunity to have a meal, period.

Part of the bill would have also eliminated the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, which allows those on SNAP to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at local farmers markets. Not only does that program encourage those receiving SNAP to eat as fresh and healthfully as possible, but farmers markets are hands down the best places to get the most bang for your buck. Compare three big, beautiful red onions for $1 at the farmers market to $2.59 per pound for a sub par, less than fresh red onion at the grocery store.

On the other hand, the fact that the bill was defeated took the possibility of random drug testing for food stamp applicants, which is extremely unfortunate. People who truly need the assistance are denied daily, due to budget constraints and other reasons. The way we see it, those people are more deserving of the assistance than ones who take what little money they have and spend it on pot, cocaine or heroin instead.

A proposed amendment to the defeated bill was to require adults on the SNAP program to either work or participate in a job training program in order to receive their benefits. Too many people take advantage of the system, again making it costly. SNAP should be something temporary that helps families in unfortunate circumstances get by. It should not be something that takes away motivation to become a productive member of society.

A statement released by United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vislack said: “The failure by the House leadership, for the second year in a row, to reach consensus on a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill is a tremendous disappointment for all Americans. Twice now, the U.S. Senate has done its job and passed balanced, comprehensive legislation with overwhelming bipartisan support. Unfortunately, the House version of this bill would have unfairly denied food assistance for millions of struggling families and their children, while failing to achieve needed reforms or critical investments to continue economic growth in rural America. As a result, the House was unable to achieve bipartisan consensus.”

Of course, there were many other issues that comprise the bill, including reworking the dairy program and expanding the crop insurance programs. But the fact that the issues and amendments were on such opposite ends of the spectrum no doubt played into the difficulty of both political parties to come to any sort of agreement. Separating the SNAP issues from the farm program issues would be a wise decision, and would likely help both sides to reach an agreement.

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