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Opinion: The good fight on the farm bill

Cheers to U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson for his strong defense farm and nutrition programs.

Peterson, who spent a great amount of time working on the farm bill, only to see it fall victim to Republican bomb throwers, had this to say on the House floor:

“I rise in strong opposition to this rule and the underlying bill. H.R. 3102 is just another example of the Republican majority’s misplaced priorities.

“I’ve been working on this farm bill for nearly four years and from the beginning I’ve said that I think it is possible to find some middle ground and make reasonable, responsible reforms to nutrition programs. Unfortunately, this bill is neither reasonable nor responsible.

“The House failed to pass the Agriculture Committee’s bipartisan farm bill because it was hijacked with partisan amendments on the floor – amendments that are included in the bill we are considering today.

“This bill goes even further by eliminating state requested waivers to exempt Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents, or ABAWDS, in high unemployment areas from SNAP’s current work requirements.

“To be clear, these waivers are granted only at the request of the states. They are under no requirement to apply and may choose to opt out in the future.

“There’s a lot of hypocrisy coming from the other side of the aisle here – waivers have been requested by both Republican and Democratic governors. A majority of Republican governors, in fact, have asked to waive current work requirements.

“This notion that we have to pass this bill to go to farm bill conference is not true. The House passed legislation, H.R. 2642, which can be conferenced with the Senate’s farm bill – there is no reason to pass this bill today. This isn’t going anywhere in the Senate, the president won’t sign it.

“In July, a broad coalition of more than 500 organizations expressed their opposition to splitting the farm bill. In a letter to House Members, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman wrote, “We are quite concerned that without a workable nutrition title, it will prove to be nearly impossible to adopt a bill that can be successfully conferenced with the Senate’s version, approved by both the House and Senate and signed by the President.”

“All this bill is going to do is make it harder, if not impossible, to pass a new farm bill this Congress...”

While it’s true that nutrition aid programs have grown substantially in the past few years, it’s clear to us that it is because the need has also grown substantially.

Just look at how demand has exploded, and continues to grow, at local food banks in this area.

There are a lot of people living near the poverty line who simply are not making it in today’s economy.

Until their boats rise with the slowly rising economy, they need help feeding themselves and their families. Slashing food aid to those living near the poverty line is not the solution — they need an economy that provides a living wage.

Congress might want to explore some creative solutions to that problem before it goes after food programs.