The farm bill passed the House by a safe margin. But a diverse set of groups oppose the legislation for very different reasons.
The $1 trillion farm bill passed 251 to 166 in the House Tuesday morning, but not without dissent from several groups that focused on different aspects of the five-year bill.
The diverse political persuasions of farm-bill opponents underscore the complexity of the legislation and the many different constituencies the bill affects.
For example, advocates at the Center for Rural Affairs opposed the bill because it doesn’t impose caps on crop subsidies that go to large and wealthy farms.
“At a time of tight budgets, increasing rural poverty and growing income inequality, this bill takes rural and small town America in the wrong direction,” wrote Steph Larsen and Traci Bruckner in an email alert about the farm bill.
“Virtually unlimited farm program payments will continue to go to the nation’s largest and wealthiest mega-farms. Those operations will continue to drive up land prices, drive their smaller neighbors out of business, and limit opportunities for beginning and family farmers.”
Putting caps on crop payments received bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, wrote CFRA’s John Crabtree. But the compromise legislation that came out Monday night changed those provisions. Crabtree also noted that then-Senator Obama promised in 2007 to do away with loopholes that allowed wealthy landowners to continue receiving crop subsidies.
Another set of organizations and House members opposed the farm bill because of cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. House member Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut), for example, said the bill “takes food for the poor to pay for crop subsidies for the rich.” (quoted in the Hill)
The bill cuts about $8 billion, or 1%, from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps poor families purchase food.
On the other side of the aisle, some conservatives opposed the bill because the cuts in SNAP didn’t go far enough. And groups such as Heritage Action for America (connected to the conservative Heritage Foundation) are fuming that Congress didn’t strip SNAP from the farm bill entirely. Heritage Action called SNAP supporters “an unholy alliance.”
Also fuming are members of the meatpacking industry, such as the American Meat Institute, National Catttleman’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council and National Pork Producers Council.
Those meat-industry groups said they opposed passage of the current version of the farm bill because it didn’t remove country-of-origin meat-labeling requirements, also known as COOL. COOL will require retailers to tell consumers where meat is raised, slaughtered and processed.
The head of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) “said his group was willing to bring down the [farm] bill over COOL even though the bill would provide aid to livestock producers who have experienced disasters,” Jerry Hagstrom reports in DTN.
NCBA’s bitter opposition to the farm bill wasn’t enough to affect the result of the House vote. But the action now moves to the Senate, which is expected to vote on the bill next week.