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Stutzman to oppose farm bill

Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, said Tuesday he will vote against the farm-bill compromise reached a day earlier by congressional negotiators.

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., announced he will support the legislation. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., was noncommittal, although he said he was pleased the bill had emerged from a House-Senate conference committee.

The House is expected to vote today on the five-year proposal, which would spend $500 billion on agriculture and nutrition programs, or $2.3 billion less a year than currently.

Stutzman, a LaGrange County corn and soybean farmer, called the legislation “just more business as usual and reverses the victory for common sense that taxpayers won last year.”

He led a successful effort in the Republican-controlled House last year to strip the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – commonly known as food stamps – from the farm bill. The House later approved cutting nearly $4 billion a year from SNAP.

Senate Democrats had sought $400 million in annual cuts to food stamps. The compromise would trim $800 million, or 1 percent of SNAP funds. Food stamps account for about 80 percent of the spending in the farm bill.

“This logrolling prevents the long-term reforms that both farm programs and food stamps deserve. … As a farmer and a conservative, I cannot vote to take a step backwards,” Stutzman said in a statement.

But Donnelly, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said in a statement that the legislation “represents a bipartisan agreement that will give the Hoosier ag community the certainty it needs to continue feeding our country and being a vital part of Indiana’s economy.”

The deal contains an amendment by Donnelly and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., that would extend federal disaster insurance to crops used in energy production.

Coats said in a statement about the bill, “My hope is that it contains significant cost savings while ensuring our farmers have a broad safety net in the event of a natural disaster.” Both Coats and Donnelly voted in favor of the Senate version of the farm bill last year.

The American Soybean Association endorsed the legislation. The group praised provisions that would eliminate direct-payment subsidies to farmers and give growers a choice between price-based and revenue-based crop insurance.

Indiana is among the top five soybean-producing states in the nation.