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Public Statements

Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. HOLT. Madam Chair, I appreciate the efforts of Chairman Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Peterson (D-MN) to craft this year's farm bill. The FARRM Act makes many several necessary reforms to our county's agricultural policy. The bill encourages organic agriculture, promotes specialty crops, such as fruits and vegetables, and ends direct commodity payments to farmers in favor of a more robust crop insurance program.

I support many of these reforms, but the bill that was considered in the House this week could have been much better. The FARRM Act cut conservation programs designed to reward farmers for protecting drinking water and land and reduced acreage enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The bill failed to place caps on the taxpayer's share of crop insurance premiums and increased price guarantees for many major crops. Additionally, the bill contained a provision added by amendment in the Committee that would have prevented states from setting their own farm and food standards.

But the most outstanding issue with the FARRM Act is by far the $20.5 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps. At a time when a record numbers of families are struggling to put food on the table the House bill would recklessly cleave SNAP resulting in a loss of benefits for more than 2 million low-income individual, working families, children and seniors.

In New Jersey the number of SNAP participants over a 5 year period has more than doubled from only 431,797 participants in March 2008, up to 873,657 participants in March of this year. The Americans who rely on this program are not looking for a handout or trying to game the system, they are individuals and families who have fallen on hard times and need just a little assistance to afford the most basic of needs--something to eat.

The average weekly SNAP benefit is $31.50 a week or about $4.50 a day. Half of all SNAP beneficiaries are children. 1 in 5 American children live in a food insecure household and 75% of households with food insecure children have one or more adults in the labor force. Overall 76% of SNAP benefits go to households with children, 16% to households with disabled persons, and 9% to households with seniors.

I voted against final passage of the FARRM Act because we must stop trying to balance the budget on the backs of the poor and working class. A $20.5 billion cut in SNAP would harm only poorest families in American and disproportionately affect children, seniors and people with disabilities.

As a country we must end our obsession with debt and deficits, especially when these reductions are coming at the expense of the impoverished and the hungry. We need policies that encourage economic growth which will allow for the creation of more jobs, higher incomes, and increased tax revenues that will in turn contribute to deficit reduction.

There are greater savings possible elsewhere in the farm bill, such as placing caps on insurance premium subsides that enable some of the largest farms to receive millions of taxpayer dollars year-after-year.

Rather than cutting programs that are specifically focused on the hungry and poor, I support policies that will create jobs and improve incomes, allowing in the long-term fewer household to depend on SNAP for their next meal.

Now that the FARRM Act has failed to pass the House by a vote of 195 to 234, it should be clear to the House Majority that members on both sides of the aisle are opposed to the SNAP cuts in this bill. I encourage my colleagues in Leadership and in the Agriculture Committee to work towards a compromise that would eliminate the SNAP cuts and allow for the passage of a farm bill that supports agriculture without hurting hungry families.

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