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House recombines food stamps to farm bill with $800 million in cuts

U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman lost his battle to have food stamps removed from the five-year farm bill.

In a bipartisan 251-166 vote Wednesday, the House kept agriculture and nutrition programs in the same legislation. The Department of Agriculture has administered food stamps since the early 1960s, and the program has been part of periodic farm bills since 1977 – an arrangement Stutzman called an “unholy alliance.”

In a floor speech ahead of Wednesday’s vote, Stutzman said Congress “works best when we do our work in the full light of day. Unfortunately, this farm bill was written behind closed doors. It has stripped long-term reforms. It spends money we simply don’t have. ... ”

The farm bill would spend roughly $100 billion a year, with about 80 percent going for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. The bill trims SNAP funds by $800 million a year, a far smaller cut than conservatives had sought but a much larger reduction than many liberals could tolerate.

The legislation also replaces direct-payment subsidies for farmers with subsidized crop insurance options.

Stutzman, a LaGrange County corn and soybean farmer, called last year for farm and nutrition programs to be split into separate bills, which the Republican-controlled House did in July after the defeat of a farm bill that combined them. But House and Senate negotiators restored food stamps to the compromise legislation they agreed to Monday.

The measure was supported Wednesday by 162 Republicans and 89 Democrats. Stutzman was among 63 Republicans and 103 Democrats who opposed the bill.

He and Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, were the only members of Indiana’s nine-person House delegation to vote against the bill, which goes to the Senate for consideration.