July 25, 2016

Lawmakers Discuss Farm Bill Food Stamps, Dairy Issues

 |  By: Anna-Lisa Laca

Although it seems just like yesterday Congress passed the current Farm Bill, lawmakers are already discussing what will happen with the next Farm Bill. Currently, farm programs, food stamps and dairy issues are at the forefront of the conversation.

On Tuesday U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York announced plans to focus on dairy issues this time around, pleasing the crowd of dairy farmers. She intends to highlight improving dairy prices, insurance, regulatory and labor issues, and hopes to adjust immigration laws that affect farmers. Farmers in attendance voiced their concerns, the roadblocks they encounter and asked Senator Gillibrand to fight for them when it comes to Farm Bill negotiations.

Splitting the Bill

Meanwhile, there’s a bigger issue brewing. According to U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, several interest groups are lobbying Congress to split the bill into two.

“The Republicans put [a split bill] in their platform,” he told AgriTalk radio host Mike Adams on Thursday. “If they think this is a way to get a Farm Bill passed, they have a pretty shallow understanding of how the process works.”

Peterson, a Democrat and ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, explained when the split bill passed last time it was in a forced situation. “If [Republicans] do this out front, I think they create an unworkable situation where they can’t pass a bill,” he said.  

According to Peterson, groups like the Heritage Foundation have Republican members convinced splitting the bill would fix issues with the food stamps program, but that might not be their true motive. “The real reason for splitting the bill is to get rid of farm programs,” he said. “The only way to do that is to take out food stamps.”

Meanwhile Peterson said the number of people on food stamps has come down significantly. If the states are held accountable to the food stamps program’s work requirement, he thinks the number of people in the program will continue to decline.