King Op-ed in the Sioux City Journal: OTHER VOICES: Farm bill must provide protection, reforms
The farm bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation for our nation, and it significantly affects the people and producers of Iowa. I am honored to serve on the House Agriculture Committee and to represent the interests important to Iowa farmers and producers since coming to Congress in 2003. As chairman of the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight and Nutrition, I know that our next farm bill must give farmers the protection they need and include reforms to nutrition programs that will ensure stability for our economy.
The road forward for the next farm bill has not been easy. Disappointingly, the House did not act on the 2012 version of the farm bill passed out of the Agriculture Committee, and a one-year extension of the programs contained in the bill was passed in the large fiscal cliff bill at the end of last year. I returned to Washington with high hopes that we would be able to push a bill over the finish line this year; unfortunately, a vote on the new 2013 version of a farm bill failed in the House on June 20. After that defeat, House leadership chose to bring a bill solely focused on agriculture policy to the floor, which passed on July 11. I was pleased that my Republican colleagues came together to pass this bill, but was disappointed the nutrition title, 80 percent of the total cost of the farm bill, was stripped out and will require a separate bill.
Looking forward to future farm bills, it is important to provide consistency for farmers and producers in a cost-effective, responsible way. We must continue to provide a good risk-management system centered around crop insurance, and maintain successful partnerships between the public and private sectors to allow farmers to have a profit potential. Direct payments were eliminated in the bill recently passed by the House, and to a large degree producers are now only granted access to risk-management programs when they suffer significant losses. These types of improvements should be included in any future farm bill because it allows for predictability for producers and savings for Iowans and all taxpayers.
In addition to offering stable policy for those who feed the world we must get a handle on out-of-control spending in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, a program formally known as food stamps). According to the Department of Agriculture (USDA), in 2008 the federal government spent $37.6 billion on SNAP. By 2012, the total cost of the program was $78.4 billion. When I first came to Congress in 2003, there were 19 million people on food stamps; today, there are more than 47 million. SNAP was implemented for a reason - to offer aid to those in need. In future farm bills, SNAP benefits must reach those who need benefits most, and not those who are eligible for the program through loopholes in the system.
The authorizing bills for nutrition policy and farm policies were joined together for a reason. By separating agriculture policies from nutrition policies, conservatives lose leverage we have in pushing for reforms in eligibility determination for the SNAP programs. Going forward, it is my hope that House leadership will pull together the necessary support for a separate nutrition bill after the August recess, making it possible for the two bills to be joined together in a conference committee with the Senate.
No other committee has offered the kind of savings proposed in the 2013 farm bill. The future farm bill should present stability for producers and restructure the nutrition programs in order to guarantee their effectiveness. Farmers are good stewards of the land, and we can assist them by maintaining a viable conservation title in the farm bill. The conservation programs offered in the farm bill should be included in any future farm bill. Iowans understand, as I do, that all new wealth comes from our land, and the farm bill reflects our priorities.
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