Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA) today voted to reform the nation's nutrition and agricultural programs in an effort to save taxpayers $40 billion and chart the course for additional savings.
"Unchecked, the status quo will bankrupt our country and doom our children and grandchildren to a life indebted to China," said Kingston. "I voted for this bill because it was the first effort to significantly reform food stamps in nearly two decades and would save taxpayers more than $40 billion."
The Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 would have reformed federal nutrition programs by reinstating income and asset test, preventing the U.S. Department of Agriculture and states from engaging in recruitment activities, and ensuring illegal immigrants, lottery winners, and the deceased do not receive benefits.
During debate, the House adopted an amendment cosponsored by Kingston which would institute a work requirement for food stamp recipients similar to the successful welfare reforms of the 1990s. As a result of those efforts, , welfare caseloads dropped by more than 60-percent over five years and 4.2 million Americans rose out of poverty.
"We cannot continue to deny able-bodied people the dignity of work," Kingston said. "Our amendment says that if you can work, you ought to be working so that you can get off these programs. It builds on the success of the past and ensures food stamps are a hand up instead of a hand out."
In addition to the food stamp reforms, the bill contained landmark changes to federal agricultural programs including an end to direct payments and a shift toward market-oriented risk management programs like crop insurance. It also repeals or consolidates more than 100 programs administered by the USDA.
"Agriculture is a $71.1 billion annual economic impact in our state and employs 6 in 10 Georgians," said Kingston. "This legislation is of vital importance to Georgia agriculture because it provides certainty over the next five years. While of great importance to farmers, it ensures they have skin in the game by cutting farm subsidies by $23 billion and replacing direct payments with a more cost-effective crop insurance program."
Despite its strong reforms and significant taxpayer savings, the bill was ultimately defeated after cuts to food stamps elicited a veto threat from President Barack Obama. House Democrats also balked at the inclusion of the Kingston-backed amendment to institute a work requirement for food stamps.
"The great success of the 1996 welfare reforms prove that we can reduce dependence on the federal government by empowering the American people to pull themselves out of poverty,"Kingston said. "I will continue to fight to reduce the size of the federal government and make entitlement programs more efficient and effective."