By Tim Krohn
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — While a broad coalition of farm groups is calling for Congress to pass a proposed farm bill this month, congressional candidate and farmer Allen Quist said the proposed bill spends too much on food stamps and should be sent back to committees for changes.
“It’s a bill that puts me in a difficult position,” said Quist, the Republican candidate hoping to unseat U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Mankato. Although he has garnered subsidies from the farm bills as a longtime crop farmer, Quist said cutting spending and reining in the federal deficit are more important to 1st District farmers and residents than passing a bad farm bill.
Quist noted 80 percent of the farm bill spending would go for food stamps, with 11 percent for farm subsidies and 9 percent for conservation programs. Spending on food stamps was $30 billion annually in 2007 and is to be $80 billion under the pending bill.
Quist said that while some of the increase is from the poor economy, the real cost driver is a system that puts too many people on food stamps. He also said the program discriminates against married people by making it easier to get food stamps if you are single. “That is a reason why two-thirds of food stamps go to unmarried people.”
Quist said he favors a plan by Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan that would make food stamps a block grant program to the states that would allow states to add more money to it if they wish.
Walz campaign workers, who attended Quist’s press conference Wednesday at the Blue Earth County Library, handed out a prepared statement to reporters.
“Today, in response to Tim Walz’s bipartisan push to pass a farm bill ... Quist called for more delay and gridlock in Washington that would create more uncertainty for southern Minnesota farmers,” the statement said.
The farm bill expires Sept. 30.
A new five-year farm bill was approved by the Senate June 21 and the House Ag Committee July 12 but has not yet been taken up by the full House, where some Republicans are calling for deeper cuts to the bill, particularly in food stamps.
One option for Congress, which is back in session Monday, is to pass a limited extension of the existing farm bill. But most rural and farm groups oppose that idea, saying Congress should pass a new bill. A limited extension would end spending on many rural development projects and some other spending tied to the farm bill.
On Sept. 12 farm groups will hold a Farm Bill Now rally in Washington, D.C. The rally is being led by two of the largest farm lobby groups — the National Farmers Union and American Farm Bureau.