Pricey farm bill is more about food stamps than farmers

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The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have passed the Farm Bill, and the President is being urged to sign it into law quickly. Conservatives in Washington are outraged at the profligate spending. The Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative think tank, said, "You Won't Believe What's in the $1 Trillion Farm Bill Disaster."

Heritage says the Farm Bill is filled with central planning policies, handouts to special interests and wasteful spending and claims the taxpayers, the poor and consumers are the losers. Heritage states the Farm Bill is really a food stamp bill because 80% is devoted to food stamps, or SNAP -- the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., is quoted as saying that food stamps are necessary to get the farm bill passed.

Heritage alleges House Republicans caved on food stamp spending and pointed out that such spending has quadrupled since 2000. Heritage argues that a recipient can enroll in the food stamp program "…even if they have $1 million in the bank."

Apparently Congress could have closed this loophole and saved $12 billion over a decade, but did not do so. Apparently food stamp recipients can have unlimited amounts of assets, but if their income is low enough they still receive food stamps, according to Heritage.

Others say this is wrong. They say a person may not have more than $2,000 to $,3500 in assets to qualify for food stamps.

Another fault

Heritage's says that Congress failed to implement a work requirement in order to promote self sufficiency for able bodied adults. Apparently the language "merely suggests" such a requirement, but did not include such.

Even though Heritage Foundation has supported many conservative ideas in the past, it was reported during 2013 that Heritage had been kicked out of Republican Study Committee Farm Bill meetings. The Republicans in the House did not believe they could pass a stand-alone Farm Bill without the food stamp program being an integral part and Heritage opposed this position.

Other conservative groups attacked the Farm Bill because there is a boost in money for crop insurance and there are higher cotton and rice subsidies. One group says the Farm Bill costs almost $100 billion a year but may save $2.3 billion annually over previous bills.

The issue in the Farm Bill which seemingly upsets so many conservatives is SNAP.  According to the proponents of food stamps, the benefits are urgently needed by families, and 97% of the benefits are redeemed by the end of the month of issuance.  Proponents also allege that "The average household has an income of only 58.5% of the federal poverty guidelines, and 83% of all benefits go to households with a child, senior, or disabled person."

There have been numerous allegations that there is significant fraud in the SNAP program.  According to GAO, the SNAP payment accuracy rate is approximately 96% or an all time high.

Groups in support of the SNAP program claim that SNAP has "…lifted 3.9 million Americans above the poverty line in 2011 including 1.7 million children and 280,000 seniors."  The food stamp program, according to USDA's Food and Nutrition Service, claims to be the largest nutrition assistance program in the U.S., going to 47 million individuals.

As an entitlement program, it costs $79.6 billion in fiscal year 2013 including funds going to states for administration. The average cost per person was $133.08 per month in food assistance.  In 1969, the cost was $6.63 per person and $2,878,000 was spent on food stamps.

The idea for such a program came from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace. Since 1939, the program has been subject of debate, discussion and enormous political dispute. This Farm Bill is no exception.

Conservatives claim the $1 trillion, 10-year Farm Bill will cost 56% more than the 2008 Farm Bill. Democrats, including the President, say not enough money is spent on food stamps when the Farm Bill is actually 80% food stamp expenditures.

The answers are not easy, as you can see from the above statistics.


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