Diverse Groups Showing Opposition to Splitting Farm Bill
Jerry Hagstrom reports from Washington that farm groups, key anti-hunger groups and the Environmental Working Group all agree it's a bad idea to split the farm bill into two bills. Before the 4th of July holiday - a coalition of more than 530 groups sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner urging him to bring the farm bill back to the floor as soon as possible and not to split it into two. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has sent a letter to Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi with the same message. According to Scott Faber - an Environmental Working Group Vice President - dividing and passing separate bill won't make it any easier for the House and Senate to reconcile competing bills and get a final bill to the President.
Antihunger advocates have started coming out against a split as well. They are led by Robert Greenstein of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities - who says if the House does split the farm bill into one bill for farm programs and another for food stamps - all anti-hunger, religious and civic groups involved in fighting hunger should vote against both bills. That's because Greenstein says the multidecade history of bipartisan comprehensive farm bills has achieved sounder policy and more sustainable policy than taking the issues up separately. Greenstein suggests separating out the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program would lead to bigger cuts and if the bill made it to conference with the Senate and there was no agreement on SNAP - he worries it sets the program up for a ceaseless attack over time because it is unauthorized. The Food Research Action Center, Feeding America, Share Our Strength and Bread for the World have now stated opposition to splitting the bill.
But the question remains - will this shared belief amongst a variety of groups convince Congress to proceed with a single bill. Hagstrom - of The Hagstrom Report - says that may depend on whether farm and nutrition advocates can persuade freshman and sophomore members of Congress that aren't primarily from rural areas to do so. He notes most of the 62 Republicans who voted against the farm bill's final passage were freshman and sophomore members.
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