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Republicans split ag bill in bid to ding food stamps

Published: Tuesday, July 16 2013 1:05 p.m. MDT

The Capitol is seen in Washington, early Monday, July 8, 2013.

J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

House Republicans took direct aim at a historic political entitlements partnership this week, looking to separate the food stamps budget from the farm bill. The combination of the two historically has created an alliance that insulates both from attack. The move provoked outcry from the left, which sees it as an effort to pare back food stamps spending.

If Congress does not pass a farm bill, farm legislation from 1949 will kick in, the Washington Post reported, which predicted that this will result in higher milk prices.

The move was met with approval on the right, however. The Heritage Foundation in an earlier white paper had argued that the recurring "farm bill" legislation is really "a misleading title for this recurring legislation. It is really a food stamp bill that also includes agriculture subsidies. The vast majority of spending — about 80 percent in the 2008 bill — is dedicated to food stamps and other nutrition programs."

The White House promptly threatened to veto the legislation, but it would not likely come to that as it would not move unscathed through a Democratic Senate.

“It is apparent, though, that the bill does not contain sufficient commodity and crop insurance reforms and does not invest in renewable energy, an important source of jobs and economic growth in rural communities across the country,” the statement said. “Legislation as important as a Farm Bill should be constructed in a comprehensive approach that helps strengthen all aspects of the Nation.”

Republicans have objected to sharply escalating increases in food stamp spending, reports the liberal Mother Jones, which responds that the real reason for these increases is a stagnating economy with few job prospects.

Mother Jones cites a 2012 Congressional Budget Office report, which found that "almost two-thirds of the growth in spending on SNAP benefits between 2007 and 2011 stemmed from the increase in the number of participants. Labor market conditions deteriorated dramatically between 2007 and 2009 and have been slow to recover; since 2007, both the number of people eligible for the program and the share of those who are eligible and who participate in the program have risen."

Email: eschulzke@desnews.com

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