By Representative Martha Roby
This week, the U.S. House of Representatives will take up H.R. 1947, The Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, better known as the Farm Bill.
As a member of the House Committee on Agriculture, along with my Alabama colleague Rep. Mike Rogers, I understand the importance of passing a new, reformed Farm Bill to give our producers more certainty in a volatile market.
Agriculture is Alabama's top industry, but reauthorizing and reforming the Farm Bill affects every American. Our farmers' ability to produce an abundant and affordable food supply is critical to our economic and national security.
Like energy policy, agriculture policy directly affects the extent to which this nation depends on foreign countries for the resources we need. Our farmers must have strong, fiscally-sound policy in place to ensure they can always feed America.
The House Farm Bill makes several significant, long-needed reforms to federal agriculture policy. The bill repeals or consolidates more than 100 programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It ends the practice of direct payments to farmers, opting instead for more planting flexibility to ensure producers are planting for market and agronomic conditions. It reduces the amount of land allowed into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), restricting the increasingly-frequent practice of paying landowners to let fertile cropland go unplanted for years. And, it includes several regulatory relief measures aimed to help mitigate the burdens that farmers, ranchers and rural communities face.
The House Farm Bill also makes critical reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps. In recent years, the food stamp program has been wrought with fraud and abuse. Instead of mitigating these problems, the Obama Administration has used loopholes in the law to aggressively grow the food stamp program. In fact, according to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal, instead of leveling off or decreasing as the economy has stabilized and unemployment dropped, the food stamp rolls have actually increased. Without a new Farm Bill, these abuses will continue unabated.
It's past time we rein in SNAP, and I'm pleased that the House Farm Bill includes several significant reforms. Among them, are:
- Preventing illegal immigrants from fraudulently obtaining taxpayer-subsidized food stamps, a reform I have championed personally;
- Eliminating the "categorical eligibility" loophole and reinstates asset and income tests for SNAP;
- Preventing the federal and state governments from actively recruiting new food stamp recipients, and prohibiting advertisements for the program on TV, radio and billboards;
- Improving accountability by demanding outcomes from employment and training services;
- Eliminating "double dipping" by ensuring no food stamp recipient collects benefits in multiple states;
With these and other provisions, the House Farm Bill represents the first major reform of the nation's food stamp program since the mid-1990s. The bill saves taxpayers $40 billion total, including more than $20 billion from the food stamp program.
Some are asking legitimate questions as to whether the bill's SNAP cuts and reforms go far enough. I echo those concerns, and agree that even $20 billion in food stamp cuts seems a small sum compared to the vast mandatory spending machine.
Are more cuts needed? Absolutely. The problem is that without a new Farm Bill, no savings will be achieved at all. That's because, as a mandatory spending program, the food stamp spending model doesn't change unless the law changes.
This unique chance to actually reform a mandatory spending program is one we can't pass up. And if the choice is between voting "yes" to cut $20 billion in waste, fraud and abuse, or voting "no" to allow the spenders to get away with no cuts at all, the conservative and responsible option is crystal clear.
As the House continues with debate, amendments and eventually votes on the Farm Bill this week, I encourage you to stay tuned for developments. I'm also eager to hear your input. As always, you can reach me online at www.roby.house.gov, or join the conversation on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RepresentativeMarthaRoby.