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What's Next for the Failed House Farm Bill?

MASW says 1 in 6 Missourians need food stamps to help ends meet                 Courtesy of: St. Louis Area Foodbank
MASW says 1 in 6 Missourians need food stamps to help ends meet Courtesy of: St. Louis Area Foodbank
June 24, 2013

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Hundreds of thousands of Missourians who receive food-stamp assistance have found themselves in the center of the political wrangling over the farm bill. The House version failed last week. A small group of House Democrats had been ready to compromise and vote yes, even with more than $20 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program known as SNAP. But they changed their minds when Republicans last week added amendments that would allow states to require assistance recipients to take drug tests and work training.

Jeanette Mott Oxford, executive director, Missouri Association for Social Welfare, said those amendments were based on false assumptions.

"There does seem to be an assumption that anybody on food stamps has something wrong with them. Often, people who are receiving food stamps actually are working," she pointed out, "but it's not enough income to lift their family out of poverty."

Oxford said she was glad the House version failed, because it would have eliminated nearly 2 million people from the SNAP program, and close to 2 million more nationwide would have had their benefits reduced. The Senate version of the bill cut just under $4 billion from the SNAP program over 10 years, compared to more than $20 billion in cuts in the failed House bill.

So now Congress faces choices. The House could work from the farm bill approved by the Senate, or come up with a new version of its own.

More than 900,000 Missourians received food stamps last month, Oxford said, and to require drug tests for every person who needs this assistance seems to mischaracterize a whole group of people as potential drug abusers.

"People who receive food stamps are a very diverse school of people," she pointed out, "some working poor, some people with disabilities, some people who are elderly, some who are newly unemployed."

Republicans who offered the drug testing and work amendments said they were trying to prevent fraud. All the Missouri Republicans in the House voted for the Farm Bill. The Missouri Democrats voted no. House leaders on both sides blamed each other for its failure. Republicans said Democrats who had agreed to a deal pulled out at the last minute. Democrats said Republicans added "poison pill" amendments that killed the bill. The President had threatened to veto the House version.

More information is available from the Food Research and Action Center at www.frac.org, from St. Louis Area Foodbank at www.stlfoodbank.org and from the Missouri Association for Social Welfare at http://masw.org.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MO