Congresswoman Betty McCollum Statement for the Record Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (H.R. 1947)

Mr. Speaker, I remain in strong opposition to the House Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (H.R. 1947) otherwise known as the ‘Farm Bill’. On June 20, 2013, I along with the majority of my colleagues voted against the House Republican’s extreme bill. Now farmers in Minnesota and across this country are depending on Congress to reach a bipartisan agreement that will continue to grow our agricultural economy and enable us to best meet our future agriculture needs.

In the past, the Farm Bill has received strong bipartisan support. Members of Congress from both rural and urban districts found common ground to support our agriculture sector, keep food affordable, and continue investments in agricultural research. However, this year the House Republican Leadership chose to put partisan politics before the best interests of our farmers, ranchers, and communities.

The bill that I voted against included an unprecedented cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Of the almost $40 billion in cuts, more than half come from a devastating reduction to the nutrition assistance for poor children, seniors, and persons with disabilities. An estimated 30,000 Minnesotans and nearly 2 million Americans would lose their SNAP benefits entirely and 210,000 children would no longer receive free meals at school. 

In June, along with Congressman Ellison, I hosted a listening discussion on the impact that these cuts would have on Minnesotans. The audience heard from state and county officials, faith leaders, community service providers, and individuals that receive SNAP. The testimony, often emotional, demonstrated the clear need for SNAP to ensure individuals are able to access healthy food. 

Patricia Lull, Executive Director of the Saint Paul Area Council of Churches, spoke of the growing need that churches in Minnesota have witnessed. She told us, “We come from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Unitarian, and Quaker backgrounds, but every one of our faith traditions agrees with this conviction – No more hungry neighbors!

Evelyn, a Minnesota senior and diabetic, recently began receiving SNAP benefits. She told us about how the rising cost of her medications had thrown her into Medicare Part D’s donut hole and forced her to cut her expenses as low as she could. According to Evelyn, without SNAP she would be unable to afford the healthy meals she needs to keep her diabetes in check. She was already worried about how she would cope with the estimated 4% reduction that will take effect this November. If she was no longer eligible for SNAP, she told us she wouldn’t know what to do.

In addition to the cuts already included in the bill, Tea-Party Republicans added polarizing amendments that would make it even more difficult to qualify for SNAP. One of the amendments would give states the ability to require all SNAP applicants to submit to drug testing. Another allowed states to require parents and some persons with disabilities to meet work requirements in order to qualify for SNAP. These destructive amendments would create new barriers for struggling Americans to access nutrition assistance, while doing nothing to improve efficiency or reduce fraud. Simply, Tea-Party Republicans voted to make a bad bill even worse.

After failing to pass their own bill, the House Republican Leadership has an obligation to move forward a bipartisan Farm Bill that does not harm our poorest Americans.  I call on the House Republican Majority to bring the Senate passed bipartisan Farm Bill (S.954) to the floor for an up or down vote. While not perfect, the Senate-passed bill includes common-sense reforms to outdated programs, makes modest changes to SNAP, reaffirms our commitment to conservation, and eliminates wasteful spending.

Minnesota farmers are depending on Congress to act swiftly and pass a long-term Farm Bill before the current extension expires. Together, Democrats and Republicans can pass the Senate’s Farm Bill before summer’s end and give certainty to America’s farmers, ranchers, and consumers.