Farmers pay the price for GOP politics

September 18, 2012 

House Republicans are once again stalling passage on a crucial bipartisan bill for purely political reasons, and putting Midwest farmers and low-income families at risk.

The issue this time is the Farm Bill, which is considered about every five years, and the current version will expire on Sept. 30. Both the Senate and the House Agriculture Committee have passed versions of a new Farm Bill with bipartisan support.

But House Speaker John Boehner won’t let the House bill onto the floor for a vote because it might cause problems at the polls for rural GOP candidates, who don’t want to explain why they are reducing farm subsidies.

While Boehner plays politics, real American farmers and ranchers are facing the loss of their land or selling off their cattle because this year’s merciless droughts have dried up their pastures. They need to know what kind of help is coming their way to make informed decisions about crop insurance and land management.

The Senate and House bills will reduce direct payments to farmers and consolidate many farm programs, creating $20 billion to $30 billion in savings. They also both provide incentives to form local partnerships that address water shortage challenges and other conservation issues.

However, both bills also include cuts to the food stamp program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). That’s exactly the wrong thing to do when the working poor continue to struggle through the Great Recession.

Almost half of food stamp recipients are children, and 25 percent of children in Washington state live in families that don’t have enough food. A food stamp provides about $1.50 per meal for each person. Not enough to live on, but poor families need all the help we can give them to create nutritious meals.

Hungry children returning to our classrooms are not equipped to learn, causing another burden for educators and letting our comparative global academic standing slip yet again.

The House bill would cut the food stamp program by four times as much as the Senate bill. Congress should amend both bills to take fewer savings from food stamps and more from farm subsidies.

But first, Speaker Boehner must give up his heavy-handed gamesmanship. That only infuriates voters about Washington, D.C., politics.

Where are the senators and representatives who truly care about people – the working poor and the farmers besieged by natural disaster trying to provide plentiful inexpensive food?

We know where they are not: in the House Republican caucus.

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