Johnson pleased by farm bill's food stamp provision

CHAMPAIGN — The House version of a new five-year federal farm bill approved early Thursday includes a provision sponsored by U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, that allows food stamp recipients to use their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cards at farmers' markets.

Overall, Johnson — a member of the House Agriculture Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture — said he was pleased with the measure. It now moves to the House floor and, if successful there, will go to a House-Senate conference committee where differences will be resolved.

"Our farmers are the best in the world, producing safe, abundant and affordable food for the world. The agriculture sector is one of the few bright spots in our economy and must be protected," said Johnson. "At the same time, our country is hurting. We all must sacrifice where we can. Existing farm policy needs reforms across the board. This agreement, forged with input from both sides of the aisle and from many diverse constituencies, does just that."

The bill would cut current spending levels by about $3.5 billion a year, with almost half of that coming from the food stamp program.

Johnson said that even with the cuts, the safety net would be preserved "for those who continue to qualify under existing eligibility rules. I want to emphasize that nobody gets their food stamp allotment cut under these changes. But with some simple changes, we can correct abuses that are costing taxpayers billions."

One example, he said, "is the way some states are increasing individuals' eligibility. Some states automatically award food-stamp benefits to any household that gets any kind of low-income assistance program. In some cases, households get an income deduction if they receive Low Income Home Energy Assistance. In practice, this means that even $1 in LIHEAP assistance can translate into $130 in food stamp benefits. This loose and irresponsible categorical awarding of eligibility qualifies people even if they receive a pamphlet about assistance programs or are given access to a 1-800 help hot line."

Johnson said he was proud of a provision that permits local farmers markets "to deflect 100 percent of the cost of EBT (electronic benefit transfer) card readers, which will allow food-stamp recipients to use their SNAP cards at farmers' markets that were previously unavailable to them."

The change, Johnson said, will increase local buying, local consuming, better nutrition and better health. He said it "also expands access to fresh fruits and vegetables through a coupon program that doubles buying power when shopping at local farmers' markets."

The legislation also consolidates conservation programs for a saving of $6 billion. And maximum enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program is limited over time, allowing enrollment to focus on the most environmentally sensitive lands and enrolled acres to be used for haying and grazing, among other reforms.

As a result of hearings in Illinois, he said, rural development programs will be retained but streamlined. And regulatory reforms on biotech research will "help prevent unnecessary delays in getting this work transferred from the lab to the field, an effort that not only rewards biotechnology research at the University of Illinois and other research universities but contributes to a safer and more abundant food supply."

Johnson called the House version of the farm bill "tough, but fair and in the overall best interests of us all."

Farm groups urged the House to move quickly toward a vote.

"We strongly urge Speaker Boehner to bring the farm bill to the floor for debate and to pass the bill quickly to provide America's farmers with the certainty and stability needed to remain viable," said Steve Wellman, president of the American Soybean Association. "While it may be called a 'farm' bill, it really is a jobs and food bill that affects Americans from all walks of life, and it must be made a priority."

"We commend the House Agriculture Committee for successfully marking up its version of the bill," said Philip Nelson, president of the Illinois Farm Bureau. "We urge the House leadership to schedule floor time as soon as possible so that the bill can be moved through the full House and into conference with the Senate."

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pattsi wrote on July 13, 2012 at 9:07 am

So we ought to applaud the use of food stamps at farmers markets when the grand total of monies being considered for the whole food stamp program for the country has been reduced significantly. I am missing the logic here. I am fully supportive of food stamps being accepted at farmers markets only if there is no cut in the food stamp budget and preferably an increase.

Watch the comments of Rep. Rosa DeLauro, CN, on C-SPAN yesterday on this topic

http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/SNAP

Orbiter wrote on July 13, 2012 at 9:07 am

Pattsi suggests that in communities where a large percentage of the population is reliant upon food stamps, that they be required to shop at large, corporate, multi-state -- even multi-national -- grocers, and not at the local farmers' markets. Those farmers' markets have the potential to reduce poverty, improve nutrition, and help get people off food stamps.  But no, Pattsi insists that food stamp money must first go to the big players.  Not very forward-thinking, in my opinion.

And what possible relevance the toal foodstamp budget has to the type and number of grocery outlets available is highly questionable.  Pattsi seems to be advocating the use of food stamps as a form of corporate welfare, as she's more concerned with the big players getting their share rather than with the hungry getting a nutritious meal.

billbtri5 wrote on July 13, 2012 at 10:07 am

I read yesterday that USDA has produced a series of commercials in the genre of a ongoing "soap opera", to explain how much better life is when you are on food stamps.  This series is being produced exclusively in SPANISH....are undocumented  people who are in this country eligible for food stamps as well?...

the goal of the Government should be to get people OFF of food stamps, the level of spending on this program has quadupled since 2001....

 

thelowedown wrote on July 13, 2012 at 4:07 pm

"Non-citizens who are unlawfully present, are not, nor have they ever been, eligible to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits," the USDA said in a statement. "States must verify the immigration status of individuals who apply for benefits.  Individuals applying for SNAP are required to provide documentation of their immigration status as a condition of eligibility."

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/07/13/usda-moves-to-end-questionable-food-stamp-ads-after-criticism/

pattsi wrote on July 13, 2012 at 10:07 am

Orbiter--your interpretation is, indeed, way out there. The point of my comment has to do with the fact that there is little fight to maintain the present level of funding for food stamps, but I ought to applaud being able to use what little will be available to be use at farmers markets. I stated clearly that I support using food stamps at farmers markets. Why don't you list to the C-SPAN program I reference to wrap around where monies being cut from food stamps is being diverted. One point that Rep. Delauro keep pointing out that there is an income level qualification criteria for food stamps, but none for farm supports. Her point being the illogic being used in Congress on the development of this new Farm Bill.

squeaky wrote on July 13, 2012 at 10:07 am

This legislation will hopefully improve nutrition for food stamp participants. Unfortunately, snack food, soft drink & convenience store interests have, through their well funded lobbying efforts, effectively prevented efforts to prohibit food stamps from being used to purchase snack foods, soft drinks or impose cost per unit criteria. Studies have shown that Food Stamp recipients use a disproportionate amount of their benefits to purchase these items.  The WIC program imposes cost per unit criteria that should be adopted in the Food Stamp program. 

 

read the DI wrote on July 13, 2012 at 12:07 pm

The only "farm bill" Congress should be considering is one that forever ends the subsidies to farmers.

Sid Saltfork wrote on July 13, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I understand your point.  On the other side; small family farms have been declining.  More will fail in this year due to the weather conditions.  When they fail, they are bought out by corporations in the agricultural business.  That places the market more in the hands of Big Business.  The petroleum industry receives huge subsidies.  Corporate farming receives huge subsidies.  I favor some reduced subsidies for the small family farmer; but no subsidies for the corporate agricultural industry.  Of course, small business owners do not receive subsidies either though.  The food stamp situation should be removed from the agricultural issue.  It should stand alone as a poverty issue; not dependent on agricultural legislation.

read the DI wrote on July 16, 2012 at 4:07 pm

How is a small family farm different from any other small family owned business? Why should subsidies be tied to the size of the business, or the ownership makeup?

I say, subsidize industries that have longterm importance and where funding is vital to getting them established. Farming is a mature industry. Farmers don't need help growing corn.

 

 

Sid Saltfork wrote on July 17, 2012 at 5:07 pm

My Father inherited a very, small parcel of land.  It became non-profitable after leasing it for a number of years.  His extended family kept saying: "God only made so much land."  He felt guilty about selling it.  My brother, and I told him to sell it; and use the money for his old age which he did.  The land was bought by an Argentine corporation.  At the time, I did not care.  Now; I see more, and more land sold to foriegn corporations.  I can agree with you that no susidies should be given; but, that includes the petroleum industry, and any other industries. 

read the DI wrote on July 17, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Remember when the United States' airwaves could not be held by foreign owners? Mexico prohibits foreign landownership of some of its Western beachfront. If we feel foreign ownership of our farmlands are an issue, we could ban that. That's completely different than taking taxpayer money and giving it away. I feel for your predicament, but subsidies are fundamentally a different problem.

 

Sid Saltfork wrote on July 17, 2012 at 8:07 pm

My brother, and I were happy that our Father sold the patch of land.  It did help him in his old age.  It was not a predicament for us.  It allowed him to not be dependent on others.  We helped; but taxpayers did not have to be involved.  I have no problem doing away with subsidies if all subsidies are done away with.  Foriegn interests already own much of our nation's infrastructure, toll ways, and some politicians.  BP, and Shell are drilling on national land.  It's a Global Economy; and we are just the local serfs.  The profits do not "trickle down".  They go to the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, and end up in Switzerland.

Orbiter wrote on July 18, 2012 at 12:07 am

I agree with your statements here, Sid.  I, too, eschew foreign ownership of US land.  The problem is that corporations are multinational, and it's not always clear that they're loyal to one country or another.  What if we simply limited land-ownership to individual, US citizens? (I would also allow the US Government, States, and municipalities to own land for schools, parks, etc.)  It would be pretty straightforward to simply pass a law requiring all land to be sold to US citizens within, say, 5 years, or else seized by the Gov't. Yep, it would cause a real drop in prices, but I merely say that's because prices are being inflated by foreign buyers with lots of oil/drug/mineral/crime/corruption money.

Let the citizen-owners then reap profits by renting the land to corporate interests or internationals. But keep it citizen-owned.  Real Estate for Real People!

And banks would DEFINITELY be prohibited from owning property--they could hold a mortgage, but if foreclosure was necessary, sale to a new individual US Citizen would be required within 90 days of eviction.  The banks are one of our country's biggest problems.

Sid Saltfork wrote on July 18, 2012 at 8:07 am

I definitely agree with you regarding the banks.  With the current economic crisis, not much is being done about the banks.  Congress is trying to divert the public's attention from doing bank reform among other things.  The risky ventures of the banks brought on the economic disaster.  The people suffered for it; but not the bankers.  J.P. Morgan's executive officer just admitted that his staff did not fully understand what they were buying in the past; and even up to today.  Barclay's simply lied to officials.  Europe is enacting stricter banking regulations.  Our country has passed legislation; but has not enacted it.  We have a presidential candidate who uses off shore accounts, and Swiss bank accounts; but it is perfectly legal.  The way things are going; I will not have any problems with the banking industry due to having no money in a bank.  My future banking experiences may end up as "Elderly male suspect last seen wearing a wig, riding a bicycle, travelling in circles on Olympia Drive roundabout."