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Agriculture Today

Did SNAP derail the Farm Bill?

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Wilson County News
October 17, 2012 | 3,031 views | Post a comment

In response to the U.S. House of Representatives’ failure to debate and vote on HR 6083, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, or the 2012 Farm Bill, many agriculture groups have used their members to contact their congressmen and voice concerns.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, was one who signed a letter to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner asking for the House to debate and vote on the Farm Bill, prior to the Sept. 30 expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill. In mid-September, Cuellar took the time to address concerns in an email interview that was published Sept. 19, “Cuellar addresses Farm Bill, ag issues.”

Due to the expiration of the Farm Bill, Cuellar again took the time Oct. 10 to respond to Wilson County News readers about these issues.

WCN: Do you feel a Farm Bill will be discussed during the lame duck session or next year? Why the delay?

Cuellar: Expiration of the current farm bill means the end of many programs dealing with production, conservation, energy, and other programs many producers rely on. I was confident that this Republican leadership would follow the precedent set by previous Speakers and Congresses and bring this legislation to the floor for consideration; however, this has not happened and programs are beginning to expire.

This Congress cannot allow this to happen -- and that is why I remain confident Speaker Boehner will allow the House to vote on a proposal as soon as possible.

Beyond programs ending, passage of the next farm bill also is pressured by a set of essentially mothballed provisions that date from the 1930s and 1940s.

The old laws on the books, known as “permanent law,” would be put back into action once the current farm bill expires. These provisions would radically change how American agriculture works, and would drive up prices to unseen levels, while violating countless international trade laws. Simply put, allowing this to happen would devastate American agriculture.

WCN: The 2008 Farm Bill had provisions that expired and needed extensions to continue. What other disaster assistance was approved for cattlemen, since the only help is for death of animals and the lack of forage?

Cuellar: The House voted on, and passed, a proposal to provide additional disaster assistance to drought-stricken areas such as Texas. While these provisions are in the Committee-passed Farm Bill, which I supported, I also supported this package.

This historic drought is driving many of the remaining family farms out of business.

However, the Senate -- which has passed a full new five-year Farm Bill -- is refusing to consider temporary relief packages as they would simply be kicking the can down the road.

WCN: Some people are saying the breaking point [why Congress could not agree on a new farm bill] was the funding of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps. Do you feel SNAP should be separated from the Farm Bill and stand alone to give the people a better view of where the funding is distributed?

Cuellar: Unfortunately, many members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, are disconnected on how food makes it from the farm to our kitchen tables. SNAP funding and production policy are both contained in the same bill because of their direct impact on each other.

As SNAP is only used for raw food purchases, funding for SNAP goes directly back to producers -- which is why it is considered [one of] the most effective economic drivers in the federal government. I would oppose separating the two packages, as passing either would be far more difficult to pass into law, and harmful to our family farms.

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