Despite recent setbacks, U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler and Missouri Farm Bureau president Blake Hurst both remain optimistic that Congress will manage to pass a farm bill before the September deadline.
Hartzler, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, said she was both surprised and disappointed that the House defeated the farm bill 234-195 on June 20. All six Republicans representing Missouri voted in favor and both Democrats in the delegation voted against the bill. The Senate passed its version of the farm bill, and both Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republican Roy Blunt voted yes.
Hurst said he expects a new farm bill to be passed before the current one expires on Sept. 30, but if Congress fails to pass a bill between now and the end of the year, the rules will revert to the 1949 farm bill.
“The bill provides a safety net for Missouri farmers, giving them the certainty to plan,” Hurst said. “Now we don’t know what the rules of the game will be next year. There’s no certainty at all without a farm bill.”
Hartzler, a Republican representing the 3rd District in central Missouri, said most of the people she’s spoken to in Washington share their opinion that the bill needs to be passed.
“We’re going back to the drawing board,” Hartzler said. “It’s important that we pass this, and I think we will.”
Hartzler would benefit from the farm bill’s passage because she lives on a working farm in Cass County, where she and her husband raise corn, soybeans, wheat and cattle.
“Ultimately, the American consumer is hurt if we don’t get a farm bill, because it enables us to have a stable policy for food production for this country and some certainty for rural America,” Hartzler said.
Some Republicans said the bill allocated too much money, particularly for the food stamp program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Many Democrats said they voted against the legislation because the program cuts would have a negative impact on too many Americans.
U.S. Rep Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat representing Missouri’s 8th District, voted no. But Cleaver said he liked many things about the farm bill, including retroactive assistance for disasters involving livestock and expansion of the Farmers Market Promotion Program.
“I have made no secret of the fact that I think the proposed $20.5 billion in cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was too much,” Cleaver said in a statement. “Choosing to increase hunger in our country, our state and literally in our own backyards, I felt, was unconscionable. Truly cruel.”
About 80 percent of all spending from the farm bill would have been allocated to food assistance programs.
With Missouri’s six food banks serving more than 950,000 people per year, most of whom are eligible for food stamps, Missouri Food Bank Association president Scott Baker said he is pleased the House version failed.
“We understand the need to balance the budget, but there’s got to be a better way,” Baker said. “The amount of money, they’re talking about cutting from SNAP would erase billions of meals.”
The Senate version of the bill cut just under $4 billion from SNAP over 10 years, compared to more than $20 billion in cuts in the failed House bill.