UT - Delegation split on new farm bill
Mark Walker - San Diego’s members of the House of Representatives were divided Wednesday on whether to approve the nation’s new nearly $1 trillion farm bill, one that cuts food stamps by about $8 billion over the next decade.
The measure ultimately passed 251-166 with Democratic Reps. Juan Vargas and Scott Peters and Republican Duncan Hunter voting against it while Democrat Susan Davis and Republican Darrell Issa voted in favor.
Vargas, whose district includes all of Imperial County and its massive agricultural lands, said he voted against the bill because of the cuts to the food stamp program known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or SNAP.
“I could not in good conscious support a bill that attempts to balance the nation’s budget on the backs of our seniors, children, and veterans," he said. "The farm bill cuts more than $8 billion from SNAP, forcing those who are already struggling in this economy to face further hardship.”
The first-term lawmaker said he worked to ensure the bill includes funding for food banks and provisions supporting California’s specialty crops, expanding agricultural exports and protecting rural housing.
Davis said she will be among lawmakers working other avenues to make sure families that rely on food stamps get what they need.
“At the same time, this was a good, bipartisan effort with a number environmental programs included, mainly conservation efforts to protect our nation’s soil, water and wildlife resources, as well as strong investments in renewable and bio-energy programs,” David said. “It also improves how we put food on our tables by encouraging local food systems and sustainable practices in organic and healthy food production."
Peters said the bill that establishes the federal government’s farm policies for the next five years provides too many giveaways, resulting in his “no” vote.
“In short, today’s farm bill had too many subsidies for wealthy farmers, and not enough help for needy families and children who don’t have enough to eat,” he said.
The package incorporates a number of provisions he supports, including investments in new sources of energy from such as biofuel and algae as well as energy efficiency programs but still couldn't win his backing.
Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper said the Alpine Republican voted against it because of its price tag.
“The final product was nowhere close to the original House bill, from spending cuts to verifications for foods stamp eligibility,” Kasper said. “One trillion dollars ... is hard to justify and that kind of spending without substantive reform is simply throwing more good money after bad.”
Issa spokesman Frederick Hill said his boss supported it because of it reduces overall farm program spending, depending on the estimate, by between $16 billion and $23 billion over its five-year lifetime and puts more emphasis on fraud in the food stamp program.
In San Diego County, the head of the local Farm Bureau, Eric Larson, has said the bill is particularly important for the research dollars it provides.
The Senate is expected to take it up next week, where it is expected to pass. President Obama is also expected to sign it into law.