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Outside Closed Farm Bill Talks Rhetoric Ratchets Up

Thu, 07 Nov 2013 17:14:02 CST
By: Charlie Schlenker

Though Conference committee leaders are meeting quietly on the Farm Bill this week, outside rhetoric is heating up over the long stalled measure. Democrats are focusing on House Republican demands to cut SNAP or food stamp assistance. But, Ag Committee Member and Representative Rodney Davis of Taylorville tells GLT a $40 billion reduction over ten years is reasonable and merely returns to policies set during the Clinton administration.

"To require able bodied adults with no dependent children who are not enrolled in school or a training program to get the skills they need to fill a job that is available, I don't think it's too much to ask them to work, provide community service, do volunteer service, because in those three areas they are going to learn valuable skills."

Democrats such as Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois say need for food stamps created during the recession has not diminished and the program should be kept as is, not reduced to pre-recession levels.

"It's really one of the basics in life as to whether individuals have the food that they need."

Davis says waivers to states that have increased costs to the Supplemental nutrition program.

"We ought to go back to the work requirement that would save billions in the program. Even the Congressional Budget Office has said that."

The House version of the bill cuts food stamps by nearly $40 billion over ten years. The Senate version by $4 billion. And the official White House position is for no reduction. Senator Durbin says two million Illinois residents receive help from food stamps, half of them children.

"A lot of people lost jobs during our recession. Some took another job that didn't pay quite as much or they might be working part time. Or in fact they could end up in a position in life where they are just not earning enough to keep food on the table."

Democrats also dislike GOP farm assistance proposals they say allow billionaires to collect government payments. Davis says farmers have accepted some reductions in payments as the program moves more to hedge risk and ended direct payments. Critics of the House version of the measure say it still encourages over-production. The Congressional Conference Committee is working on resolving differences in the farm bill this week and next.

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