Sixty-two Republicans voted against the five-year, half-trillion-dollar farm bill that would have cute $2 billion annual from food stamps and let states impose broad new work requirements on those who receive them.
Freshman U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla. 1) was the only Oklahoma congressman to vote against the farm bill.
Bridenstine told The Oklahoman's Chris Casteel only two percent of Americans received food entitlements when they were linked with the farm program in the 1970s. Now, 15 percent of the population relies on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
“Both the agriculture program and food stamps need major reform,” Bridenstine said. “The two programs must be separated to accomplish real reform. Many people don’t realize that over 70% of the spending in the bill went to food stamps.”
Congressman Frank Lucas (R-Okla. 3) chairs the House Agriculture Committee. He says members of both parties had signaled opposition to the food stamp cuts in the bill.
“I know that not everyone has in this final bill exactly what they want,” Lucas says. “I know some of my very conservative friends think it doesn’t go far enough in the name of reform. I know some of my liberal friends think it goes too far.”
Many Republicans say the cuts are not enough; the food stamp program has doubled in cost over the last five years to almost $80 billion a year and now helps to feed 1 in 7 Americans.
Most Congressional Democrats oppose any reductions in food stamps, contending that the House plan could remove as many as 2 million needy recipients from the rolls.
After the vote, Lucas said the committee is assessing its options.
The House's broad rejection of a massive farm bill could signal a shift in the way Congress views agriculture policy.
Farm issues once had enormous clout on Capitol Hill, but the healthy agriculture economy and an increased interest in cutting spending have worked against farm-state lawmakers who are trying to push a farm bill through for a third year in a row.
The Oklahoma Farm Bureau says it’s disappointed with the vote.
“We produce abundant crops despite the variable weather conditions and that is why this farm bill is so important,” President Mike Spradling says. “It would give farmers the protection and ability to manage risks with a solid crop insurance program.”
Spradling says the negative vote will indefinitely delay business decisions.