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Food stamps vs. Farm policy

An editorial in the Washington Post plays food stamps against farm subsidies, arguing U.S. farmers are wealthy enough to take care of themselves, and the poor need government help. The urban-rural coalition in Congress thrown together by simultaneous votes on food stamps and farm policy is what’s given past farm bills the votes needed to pass. Without it, the Post argues another farm bill will unravel this year.

Former USDA Secretary under President Reagan, John Block, predicts a farm bill is still likely in the next few months; both chambers, despite early resistance, will have to compromise on food stamp cuts to bridge a serious divide. Direct payments will be gone and crop insurance may not get as much funding as some want.

But American Farm Bureau Director Dale Moore says food stamps is the one issue that gets the attention of all lawmakers with constituents affected in some way.

You get those extra votes you need to get a bill off the House floor or the Senate floor based on support for the nutrition title. I’m optimistic that whatever the Sentate position is, whatever the House position is – that’s why we have House-Senate conference, and it’s going to be very interesting to see how they forge that middle ground that both sides may not like, but they can live with.

The Senate resumed farm bill debate late Monday with votes planned on research and development and crop insurance for alfalfa, along with expanded funding for regional food aid buying projects. Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow was under pressure to come up with an abbreviated amendment list to hasten farm bill passage this week before the body moves to immigration reform.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Senator Chuck Grassley expressed a belief that the funeral of longtime New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg on Wednesday would delay the Senate farm bill debate, possibly pushing a final bill back to June 10 or 11.

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