Collins blames ‘dysfunction’ for farm bill defeat; other reactions mixed
Jun 20, 2013
In The News
The House of Representatives today rejected a five-year, half-trillion-dollar farm bill that would have cut $2 billion annually from food stamps and let states impose broad new work requirements on those who receive the aid.
The vote was 234-to-195 against the bill. Members of both parties noted opposition to the food stamp cuts.
The bill suffered from “lack of Democratic support necessary for the traditionally bipartisan farm bill to pass,” according to a report from The Associated Press. Only 24 Democrats voted in favor of the legislation after many said the food stamp cuts could remove as many as 2 million needy recipients from the rolls. The addition of the optional state work requirements by an amendment just before final passage turned away any remaining Democratic votes the bill’s supporters may have had.
Congressman Chris Collins, R-Clarence, called the defeat “unfortunate” and said it “speaks to the dysfunction in Washington that continues to stand in the way of solving real problems for real Americans.”
The bill also included $600 million in mandatory funding for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, which provides funding to land grant university such as Cornell university to conduct research on such crops as apples, sweet corn, onions and potatoes. The fund could have led to new technologies, advanced plant varieties and higher profits, Collins said in May.
“Agriculture is a critical industry in New York’s 27th Congressional District, impacting our local residents far beyond those directly doing the hard work of farming,” said Collins, whose district includes Livingston County. “Our farmers and growers deserve a Congress that can come together and pass a long-term Farm Bill. It is essential to help our agricultural industry plan and prepare.
“As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, I remain committed to the work ahead to see a Farm Bill become law.”
Collins, in May, voted to approve the legislation.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, had voted in mid-May against sending the Senate bill out of committee. In a statement following the bill’s passage, Gillibrand cited cuts to food aid programs as the determining factor in her vote, despite support for other provisions of the bill.
Reaction to Thursday’s vote was mixed.
Gillibrand, in a statement, said she was “proud to see House Democrats stand strong and reject this draconian cut that would literally take food away from millions of those who desperately need it.”
“Families who are living in poverty — hungry children, seniors, troops and veterans who are just trying to figure out how to keep the lights on and put food on the table — they did not spend this nation into debt, and we should not be trying to balance the budget on their backs,” Gillibrand said. “They deserve better from this Congress.”
From the New York Farm Bureau:
“It is with great disappointment that we watched House lawmakers defeat the 2013 Farm Bill. The farmers in this state deserve a reasonable farm policy that has been delayed for far too long.
“While there were concerns over certain provisions of the bill, we were hoping its passage and a vigorous debate in conference would reach an appropriate compromise that would provide a fair safety net for the people who produce healthy, local food and the consumers who need help putting it on their dinner tables.
“New York Farm Bureau will continue to work hard with the state’s Congressional delegation to do what is right for our farm families.”
From Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack:
“The failure by the House leadership, for the second year in a row, to reach consensus on a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill is a tremendous disappointment for all Americans. Twice now, the U.S. Senate has done its job and passed balanced, comprehensive legislation with overwhelming bipartisan support.
“Unfortunately, the House version of this bill would have unfairly denied food assistance for millions of struggling families and their children, while failing to achieve needed reforms or critical investments to continue economic growth in rural America. As a result, the House was unable to achieve bipartisan consensus.”
The Fairfax, Va.-based Americans for Limited Government, a lobbying group cheered the bill’s demise. Rick Manning, the group’s vice president of public policy and communications, issued the following statement:
“The failure of the farm bill is a boon to taxpayers, who were going to be on the hook for $750 billion for food stamps over the next decade. Increases in eligibility for the food stamps program in recent years has, combined with the current recession and high unemployment, led to an explosion of program participation. Now, more than 47 million Americans are on food stamps, yet the program has zero transparency, with neither taxpayers nor Congress having any idea what food stamps are even spent on.
“This should be a signal to Congress to at least separate the so-called farm bill in two. Farm subsidies and food stamps should each be considered on their merits. Both programs are in need of considerable reform. It is time for Congress to begin considering what is in the best interests of taxpayers instead of constantly doling out corporate subsidies and expanding welfare without question.”
Officials from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs welcomed rejection of the proposed farm bill.
Said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow: “Now is time to press the restart button. The House of Representatives defeated a Farm Bill that would have eliminated food assistance for 2 million individuals, many of whom are in working families with children or seniors. Now Congress has the opportunity to debate a serious food policy that aims to feed all Americans, not take food from the hungry. … We encourage Congress to move forward with a more responsible Farm Bill, one that doesn’t aim to undermine our safety net.”
And from JCPA Chairman Larry Gold: “Hunger cannot be legislated away or zeroed out through budgeting. It must be confronted with compassion and effective solutions. In SNAP, we have both. Since the beginning of the recession, SNAP has done exactly what it was designed to do: meet the needs of those who suddenly found themselves unemployed or struggling to support their family through no fault of their own. With a near 97 percent efficiency rate, SNAP has raised 3.9 million people out of poverty in 2011 alone and kept even more from hunger while also contributing to local economies. We thank the majority who voted to protect our most vulnerable and are eager to continue working with Congress to pass a Farm Bill that addresses our deficit in a serious manner without targeting the poor our society should be protecting.”