House passes farm bill preserving crop subsidies, slightly curbing food stamps

Published January 29, 2014

The House on Wednesday approved a nearly $100 billion-a-year farm bill that would make small reductions in the growth of food stamp spending while continuing generous subsidies for the nation's farmers.

The vote was 251-166. The five-year bill now goes to the Senate for final approval.

Leaders scheduled a quick vote after the nearly 1,000-page bill was introduced Monday, giving opponents little time to build opposition.

Agriculture Committee chairman, Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., have spent the past two years crafting a bill to appeal to members from all regions of the country, including a boost in money for crop insurance popular in the Midwest; higher rice and peanut subsidies for Southern farmers; and renewal of federal land payments for Western states.

Some House conservatives were not happy with the new bill. They originally wanted to dial back food stamp spending by $4 billion a year; the new bill cuts $800 million a year -- which represents about 1 percent of the $80 billion-a-year program.

The final food stamp savings are generated by ending a practice in some states of boosting individual food stamp benefits by giving people a minimal amount of federal heating assistance they don't need. The cuts were brought down to $800 million a year to come closer to the Senate version of the bill, which had $400 million in annual food stamp cuts. The House bill passed in September would have cut $4 billion a year.

The legislation would also eliminate a $4.5 billion-a-year farm subsidy called direct payments, which are paid to farmers whether they farm or not. The bill would continue to heavily subsidize major crops -- corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and cotton -- while shifting many of those subsidies toward more politically defensible insurance programs. That means farmers would have to incur losses before they received a payout.

The bill would save around $1.65 billion annually overall, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The amount was less than the $2.3 billion annual savings the agriculture committees originally projected for the bill.