Passing farm bills becoming tougher row to hoe for rural congressmen

I completed 35 years with Farm Press recently. During that time, I’ve witnessed the passage of seven farm bills, beginning with the Agriculture and Food Act of 1981 and continuing through the Agriculture Act of 2014.

If you look at a list of the farm bills since the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 (http://nationalaglawcenter.org/farmbills/), you’ll notice it’s been taking longer to write them. And, following passage of each new law, many say that farm bill will be the last one.

Those who made that prediction after the president signed the 2014 farm bill in February nearly two years ago may be right. That’s because of the changing political landscape in the Congress and in the country.

Each farm bill since the 1970s has included reauthorization of Food Stamps. That’s because farm-state members could see the number of agriculturally-dominant congressional districts in the country was declining, and a means to generate urban support for the farm bill would be needed.

The urban-rural alliance that resulted has begun to unravel because of belief by some in Congress that food stamps help keep many Americans on the dole, despite growing evidence to the contrary.

The House Agriculture Committee has held 10 hearings on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, supposedly to find ways to help recipients “break out of the cycle of poverty.”

A report released by the White House Council of Economic Advisers says the SNAP Program lifted at least 4.7 million people – including 2.1 million children – out of poverty in 2014. Another 1.3 million children were lifted out of “deep poverty,” or above half of the poverty line ($11,925 for a family of four.)

Rather than provide a disincentive, as some claim, the majority of SNAP recipients who are able work, but they earn so little at full-time jobs or multiple part-time jobs, they still qualify for SNAP.

A growing body of research is finding children who receive assistance see improvements in health and academic attainment and economic self-sufficiency, the report says. It also shows benefit levels are often inadequate to feed families through the month, a development Americans should find disturbing when efforts are being made to cut benefits.

To read the report, visit https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/documents/SNAP_report_final_nonembargo.pdf

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