Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) flagrantly misrepresented what the House has done with the farm bill at a constituent breakfast in Turlock, California on Wednesday. Denham claimed the House farm bill cuts twice as much spending as it actually does, misled about the nature of those cuts, and ignored his party’s unprecedented decision to drop food stamps and other anti-hunger and anti-poverty spending from the bill.
“We cut subsidies,” Denham said. “We cut a lot of those program crops that sometimes farmers will get paid money not to farm.” He added that the bill had “about $40 billion in savings.” He did not mention funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), otherwise known as food stamps, though the House is expected to vote a bill that cuts the program deeply, kicking millions of low-income Americans off the rolls. ThinkProgress’s Scott Keyes attended the breakfast and recorded Denham’s remarks on the farm bill:
The bill Denham and his colleagues passed actually saves $20 billion, half of what he claimed Wednesday. And while it did erase $5 billion in annual payments to farmers for not growing anything, it didn’t actually save that money. The bill redirects those funds to the crop insurance program that provides price supports for various agriculture produce.
Those price supports are set at such high levels that they effectively make it impossible for farmers to lose money on many crops. Corn, cotton, rice, soybean, wheat, and peanut price supports all shot up under the House GOP’s bill. Growers of specialized sushi rice, for example, are guaranteed payments from taxpayers should the market rate for the rice fall below 115 percent of the previous year’s rate. Denham and his colleagues guaranteed sushi rice growers will make more money next year but could not pass a bill funding SNAP.
As Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) said of the initial bill, which cut SNAP but at least provided funds for it, “I wish that poor people would be treated as well as sushi rice in this farm bill, but they are not.”
After the recess ends in September, the House is expected to vote on a SNAP bill that cuts food aid by $40 billion – twice as much as the initial proposal that Republicans killed in June. After poisoning that first version of the bill, House leadership elected to end the decades-long legislative marriage of food aid and farm aid by splitting the bill in two and passing just the farm version. The result, experts told ThinkProgress, is that the food stamps program is now in danger.
Despite SNAP’s successes – the program kept 4.7 million out of poverty in 2011 alone yet has a lower erroneous payments rate than the crop insurance program – conservatives have sought to undermine it for years. The first round of cuts the House GOP sought were expected to knock as many as 5 million Americans off of the program. Food charities say they are already stretched beyond capacity, and will not be able to pick up the slack if the government pulls back from fighting hunger.