Feb. 12, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Farm Bill Next Partisan Victim?

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas will have to navigate a tough field to move the farm bill.

The difficulty  passing a farm bill is not a surprise to anyone, and Lucas has acknowledged as much in recent interviews.

He told National Journal, for instance: “My friends on the hard left don’t want to spend any money on rural America. And my friends on the hard right don’t want to spend any money for anybody on any occasion or any reason.”

Indeed, about 80 percent of the approximately $1 trillion in mandatory 10-year farm bill spending goes toward food assistance programs, and most of that goes to SNAP, or food stamps, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Lucas has indicated he is planning about a $14 billion cut to the program, $10 billion more than the Senate’s mark. But that might not be enough to appease some Republicans.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), a conservative member of the Agriculture Committee, said he anticipates the measure will clear the committee, but not before a flurry of amendments cut more out of food stamp spending.

“It’ll be a long battle,” he said. “There’s a lot more concern about fiscal issues in the House than there ever has been in the Senate, so we’ll face that head on and have a lot of amendments in committee on the cost of food stamps.”

Democrats on the committee, however, are seeking to limit cuts to the program.

“We’re working to find a way to make those cuts without having a severe impact on benefits,” a Democratic aide said.

Sixteen of the 26 Republican members of the Agriculture Committee are freshmen, and so far, Republican freshmen have not held their fire on amendments, proposing dozens during the appropriations process.

Even beyond the committee, other Members have their eye on the issue.

At a press availability last week, Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.), who is not an Agriculture Committee member, lambasted SNAP.

“This program has gotten completely out of control, and I hope that when we get an opportunity to deal with it, that we’ll do the responsible thing and turn back to those hard-working Americans some of their tax dollars,” he said.

In fact, the Agriculture Committee markup was delayed from this week for that very reason: The Agriculture, rural development, and Food and Drug Administration appropriations bill was supposed to come to the floor this week, and Lucas wanted all hands on deck to beat back harmful amendments.

The appropriations bill will not likely see the floor after all because of a packed schedule, but the Agriculture Committee markup remains set for July 11, aides said.

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