Local legislators comment on farm bill failure
A week after the national farm bill failed to get through the U.S. House of Representatives, local legislators say that leading up to another vote they’re focusing on funding for rural development, crop insurance, nutrition and conservation.
The bill failed 198-213.
Another vote on the bill is expected in late June, Lou Wasson, a spokesman for Suzan DelBene, D-Wash, said in an email. It’s unclear at this point if any changes will be made to the bill.
The current five-year farm bill expires in September. The new bill reauthorizes federal farm and nutrition programs, including crop insurance, research, conservation and energy programs, and supplemental nutrition programs.
In a statement released prior to the vote, Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., voiced his intent to vote against it.
“I am concerned some of my colleagues are using this bill as an opportunity to gut conservation, rural development, crop insurance and nutrition funding,” he said in the statement.
The bill would have cut $800 million from the Conservation Stewardship Program, which helps farmers and ranchers implement sustainable farm practices and preserve working lands, Wasson said.
In his statement, Larsen also highlighted the bill’s lack of funding for rural development programs, underfunding of organic research, failure to increase spending for protection of specialty crops and the elimination of certain crop insurance programs.
Changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would have required able-bodied adults ages 18 to 59 to work part time or enroll in 20 hours a week of workforce training to receive assistance.
In an op-ed for The Seattle Times, DelBene said the changes to SNAP could have taken nutritional assistance away from millions of people.
Babs Roberts, director of the community services division at thestate Department of Social and Health Services, said the changes could have put additional strain on state-funded child care.
“If you’re a single mom with two children and can’t spend at least 20 hours per week in one of these programs, your kids might not get fed,” DelBene said in the op-ed.
According to data provided by the Department of Social and Health Services, there are 845,319 SNAP recipients statewide, with 16,735 of them in Skagit County.
“My hope was to pass a farm bill that both protected our district’s farmers as well as the roughly 900,000 Washingtonians who rely on nutritional assistance, but Speaker Ryan’s desire to blow up the SNAP program meant I could not vote for this bill in good conscience,” DelBene said in a statement. “My goal remains to work with Republicans and Democrats to pass a farm bill that invests in our local farmers and bolsters our agriculture industry while not punishing hardworking people trying to feed their families.”