WASHINGTON—The House Agriculture Committee will consider a farm bill Wednesday that contains a $20.5 billion cut over 10 years to the food stamp program, drawing objections from a member of the committee, Representative James McGovern, Democrat of Worcester.
But McGovern is unlikely to halt the measure’s progress. Even some of his fellow minority Democrats on the committee want to keep the bill on track because of their desire to continue agricultural subsidies in rural districts.
“This farm bill isn’t worth advancing if there is a $20 billion cut in SNAP,” McGovern said, uysing the acronym for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. “There are some people who think we ought to just go along with this, even though we don’t like it. But my view is that if we do that, we have no leverage in Congress.”
Subsidies to the hungry have been historically lumped into the federal government’s assistance to farmers to keep members representing urban districts from ignoring the interests of rural farmers. In the House bill, farmers are expected to see a $22 billion cut to their commodity subsidies, crop insurance and conservation programs.
The farm bill stalled last year but it must be reauthorized by Sept. 30 to keep funds flowing to any of the programs it supports.
Many rural Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee, such as North Carolina’s Mike McIntyre, aren’t willing to put farmers at risk and prolong uncertainty over crop subsidies. Unlike SNAP, farm subsidies are not immune from sequestration.
In a letter sent to House Speaker John Boehner in March, McIntyre said: “Weather, input, costs, and market volatility are out of our control, but the Farm Bill should not be… Please allow this legislation to come to the floor and be voted upon so that we can preserve and promote the necessary food and fiber needs for our nation and economic advancement for rural America.”
Ranking member Collin Peterson of Minnesota is a co-sponsor of the bill and has led the push to be sure it reaches the House floor this summer.
If the proposed SNAP cut are carried out, more than 7,500 of the 27,724 households receiving food assistance in McGovern’s district—spanning from Leominster to Northampton—would lose it, according to estimates
But Committee Chair Frank Lucas told The Associated Press, that the bill’s proposed cuts to SNAP “won’t take a calorie off the plate of anyone who needs help.”
The Senate Agriculture Committee passed its own version of the farm bill — with far fewer cuts — on Tuesday. That measure contains $4.1 million in cuts for food stamps.