The program shells out to farmers and land owners regardless of need or loss. It’s a hold-out from a farm bill that promised an end to subsidies and it’s holding on only because Congress is so dysfunctional.
The farm bill is, once again, entering a critical stretch. As was the case last year, the current law expires at the end of September. There’s no election to dissuade elected officials from tackling the major piece of agriculture and nutrition policy—but Congress does have a pretty full plate, with the crisis in Syria, immigration reform and a measure to continue funding federal government programs all set to come to a head.
With Congress in its August recess, the farm bill is stalled and many are pessimistic about getting a new bill passed before the current extension expires on Sept. 30. Still, farm country legislators aren’t exactly giving up hope.
Republican Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock was asked about the farm bill at a town hall style meeting in in his district this week. He said that he thinks the most likely outcome is that the House will pass a “food stamp bill,” to go along with a agriculture portion it passed in June. That could put the farm bill back on track.
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri says she will spend much of the August congressional recess talking about the farm bill, which is hung up in a legislative impasse.
Hopes are dim for compromise on the legislation after the Senate approved a five-year plan regulating farm programs and food stamps, but the House signed off on a bill dealing only with farm programs. McCaskill says Republican efforts to make sharp cuts to the food stamp program are holding up the farm bill, which she says is unfair to farmers in Missouri.
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed its version of the farm bill, a version that excludes funding for nutrition assistance programs nationwide. But most analysts believe the Democrat-controlled Senate won’t approve a version that does not include funding for programs like food stamps.
On this week's Business Beat: 47 million Americans are enrolled in the SNAP program, or food stamps, including nearly 16 percent of Missourians. SNAP is the biggest spending item in the farm bill. And the program has a big bulls eye on it as Congress debates new legislation. As Grant Gerlock reports for Harvest Public Media, the economic considerations go beyond who receives SNAP benefits to how and where the money is spent.