The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 11, 2013

House passes farm bill without food stamps

WASHINGTON — House of Representatives Republicans on Thursday rammed through a newly revised farm bill designed mostly to solve a vexing political problem that has divided their party and frustrated farmers nationwide.

On a largely party-line vote, the House approved 216-208 the unusual bill that includes crop subsidies and other farm benefits but excludes nutrition programs, including food stamps, which have long been part of the legislation. It was a tactical maneuver, designed to mollify conservatives and secure passage, and it was the latest turn in a legislative process often likened to sausage-making.

While a dozen Republicans opposed their party and voted against the bill, not a single Democrat voted for it.

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Mankato, released a statement calling it a "partisan, broken farm bill that is bad for producers and consumers alike."

The statement also included criticism from Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap, who farms near Garden City.

“The ‘marriage’ between the nutrition and farm communities has been an effective, balanced arrangement that has worked for decades, both to protect farmers and ranchers from disaster and to ensure all Americans can put food on the table,” he said.

By itself, the revised 608-page measure unveiled Wednesday night and approved Thursday afternoon will not become law. The Obama administration immediately threatened a veto, and the Democratic-controlled Senate won’t go along with it.

Instead, House Republican leaders contrived its passage so that House and Senate negotiators can get to work on a more politically realistic version that will include both farm and nutrition programs and can win approval in both chambers.

“It’s fraught with long-term consequences,” Dan Haley, a lobbyist for California fruit and vegetable growers, said of the unusual tactic, “but it’s the only chance we have if we want to move ahead.”

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