House votes against Farm Bill that would have cut SNAP

House votes against Farm Bill that would have cut SNAP

The U.S. House of Representatives rejected a farm bill Thursday, June 20, that if signed into law, could have resulted in 171,000 Texans being immediately cut off food assistance.

H.R. 1947, a bill sponsored by Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla), was rejected by a vote of 195-234, with only 24 Democrats voting in favor of the legislation and 62 Republicans opposing the bill.

“If it doesn’t pass, I don’t know if it’s going to come up again in this Congress,” Lucas told lawmakers before the vote.

Many nonprofit organizations were speaking out against the bill, including the Texas Food Bank Network. TFBN CEO Celia Cole responded to the rejection of the bill in a press release.

“Today the House of Representatives rightly rejected a bill that would have significantly increased hunger in Texas,” Cole said. “We are encouraged that many members of Congress, including representatives from Texas, saw the folly of taking food away from our poorest neighbors in the name of deficit reduction. We thank these members for rejecting policies that would have made people hungrier, and were written without a single public hearing.”

The White House issued a statement Monday, June 17, stating that “the bill makes unacceptable deep cuts in SNAP, which could increase hunger among millions of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet, including families with children and senior citizens” and that said that President Barack Obama would most likely veto the bill if it reached his desk.

According to the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture website, H.R. 1947, also called the FARRM Act, would have included the first reforms to SNAP since the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, saving more than $20 billion, and would also have:

• Saved nearly $40 billion in mandatory funds, including the immediate sequestration of $6 billion

• Repealed or consolidated more than 100 programs

• Eliminated direct payments, which farmers received regardless of market conditions

• Streamlined and reformed commodity policy while also giving producers a choice in how best to manage risk

• Consolidated 23 conservation programs into 13, improved program delivery to producers and saved more than $6 billion

• Built on previous investments to fruit and vegetable production, farmers markets and local food systems

• Included several regulatory relief measures to help mitigate burdens farmers, ranchers, and rural communities face.

In a June 12 email to The Examiner, District 14 Congressman Randy Weber (R-Friendswood) said “Although, the Farm Bill is not perfect, it is a step toward providing American food producers stability in the market.”

Cole called the rejection of the bill a huge victory for the needy Texans served by SNAP, for hunger advocates who have fought hard to prevent cuts and for the state agencies charged with administering the program.

“We understand there are many legislators and outside groups who are disappointed in the failure of this bill, which also included provisions for farmers, food manufacturers and conservation programs,” Cole said. “We urge them to come back to the table with a bill that does not take meals away from families who are least equipped to fight back.”

Cole said that although S. 954, a similar Senate bill with fewer cuts, passed the Senate on Monday evening, June 10, she believed it would now be difficult for Congress to pass any further significant cuts to the SNAP program.

“What we anticipate is another one-year extension of the Farm Bill and all the programs it authorizes including SNAP,” she said. “I don’t think there is time for the House to come up with a compromise or new bill that is going to be acceptable to enough members in time for September 30 (The end of the fiscal year).”