The two Iowans who serve on the House-Senate panel tasked with creating a compromise farm bill agree on one thing, that they can’t agree on how much money to cut from the food stamp program. Republican Congressman Steve King favors the original House proposal to cut the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, by nearly $40-billion dollars.
Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, stands by the Senate’s plan to cut about $5-billion. “The same extreme, idiology-driven folks in the House of Representatives who forced the government shutdown are demanding radical cuts to federal food assistance programs,” Harkin says, “which benefit the most vulnerable among us, children, seniors, individuals with disabilities and low wage workers.”
Some 421,000 Iowans now receive SNAP benefits, or about 13-percent of the state’s population. Harkin says the House provision on SNAP is “mean-spirited” and tries to “bribe” states that cut off benefits.
Harkin says, “One House provision would offer states a financial incentive to throw poor households off the food stamp program, including kids, if a parent cannot find a job or a job training slot.” The farm bill’s passage is “critical” to Iowa, Harkin notes, as agriculture-related enterprises account for nearly one in every five Iowa jobs and almost one-quarter of the state’s economic output.
Harkin insists the Senate’s proposal to cut $4.9-billion from SNAP over ten years is the one that needs to be adopted for the final version of the farm bill. “The small cuts that we made in the SNAP program were supported by Democrats and Republicans,” Harkin says. “We had a bi-partisan agreement. The $40-billion cut that the House made was only supported by Republicans. They didn’t have one Democrat support that.”
Harkin hopes the House-Senate panel can reach a compromise and have a new farm bill ready for a vote by Thanksgiving. He notes, this is the eighth farm bill he’s worked on since heading to Washington in 1975.