House leaders this week appear to be setting the House up for more action on the Farm Bill, this time with the bill in two pieces – one for farms, the other for food.
Political outlets are reporting that a vote may come later this week, though House schedules do not reflect any time on the docket.
House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., reportedly approved a split Tuesday, noting he would support the move if the required votes could be achieved.
Supporters of splitting the bill say the action could overcome the partisan wrangling that plagued the Farm Bill the when it came to the floor – and failed to pass – in June. Most speculate its final blow was a difference of opinion between Republican lawmakers who pushed for more cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs and Democrats who felt the cuts to SNAP were too steep.
The nutrition title accounts for about 80% of the bill's funding.
Rep. Marlin Stuzman, R-Ind., has long pushed for splitting the bill. In a Monday Wall Street Journal editorial, Stutzman said the Farm Bill as it stands represents an "unholy alliance" between food stamps and agriculture.
"Instead of combining farm policy, food stamps, telecommunications, energy, forestry and conservation into a single legislative vehicle, we must begin advancing one issue at a time," Stuzman wrote. "Even Americans with differing views on the role of the federal government in U.S. agriculture should agree that any farm bill passed by Congress be a farm-only bill."
Stuzman argued that the rising number of Americans on food benefits could be countered by splitting the bill and considering SNAP legislation separately.
"Taxpayers deserve an honest conversation about how Washington spends their money and that won’t happen as long as Congress expands the food stamp program under the guise of a Farm Bill," he noted in a statement Tuesday.
But some lawmakers oppose the move. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., told The Hill that splitting the bill could garner more votes, but could potentially kill the bill in conference with the Senate.
Peterson referenced the more than 500 groups that signed on to a letter last week urging House leadership to avoid splitting the bill, which noted that farm bills represent a balance between farm, nutrition and conservation priorities.
"We believe that splitting the nutrition title from the rest of the bill could result in neither farm nor nutrition programs passing, and urge you to move a unified farm bill forward," the groups wrote.
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