Rep. Bonamici Statement on Farm Bill Vote
On January 29, 2014, I voted to support the Conference Report on H.R. 2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, also known as the Farm Bill. This vote presented a very difficult choice for me. On the one hand, the bill contains numerous provisions that benefit our agriculture communities; on the other, it makes an ill-advised change in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that I would have strongly opposed had it been presented in a separate bill.
The Farm bill contains several policies that are beneficial, especially for our nation’s and Oregon’s farmers and rural communities. Some of the positive provisions include:
- Repeals direct payments to commodity farmers who don’t need them;
- Provides an additional $20 million per year to support food banks through the Emergency Food Assistance Program;
- Funds Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program;
- Provides $100 million for SNAP incentive grants to increase purchase of fruits and vegetables;
- Allows SNAP benefits to be used in CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs;
- Reauthorizes the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program and expands it to include low-income families;
- Increases funding for Community Food Projects with focus on low-income communities;
- Funds research for Organic Production;
- Funds Specialty Crop Block Grant Program;
- Reauthorizes the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) to help rural counties;
- Allows Christmas tree growers and organic producers to establish checkoff programs to help assure long-term success;
- Funds needed pest and disease research;
- Allows limited farming of Industrial Hemp in some states, including Oregon;
- Continues Conservation Stewardship Program, including a provision to give priority treatment to grant applicants who commit to provide pollinator habitat; and
- Funds an outreach program for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and expands programs to assist veteran farmers and ranchers.
Unfortunately, along with many positive provisions, the bill also contains a change in the benefit calculation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is an essential part of the nation’s social safety net. With the changes, some SNAP recipients (about 11-12 percent according to the Congressional Budget Office) will see a reduction – but not elimination – of benefits in some circumstances. According to The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, “it removes virtually no low-income households from SNAP.” Additionally, these changes will not take effect immediately but rather will be phased in.
This was not an easy decision for me, but I supported the Farm Bill because the investments included in this bill, especially those in our rural communities, will help many people continue the long climb back from the lingering effects of the economic downturn. SNAP is a critical program, but it’s also essential to address the root causes of poverty. These investments help to build rural economies, eventually decreasing the need for assistance.
Congress must now commit to working in other ways to assist our constituents, especially those who rely on federal nutrition programs. I will continue to advocate for an extension of emergency unemployment compensation benefits, an increase in the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, more workforce training opportunities, and affordable higher education.
More information on H.R. 2642 can be found here.