Why Don’t Democrats Want To Have A Straight Debate On Food Stamps?


You would think a piece of legislation known as the “Farm Bill” would be mostly about farming, but it’s not. Roughly 80% of the “Farm Bill” is food stamps, and that causes a lot of headaches when it comes to getting the bill passed. Food stamps enrollment has grown dramatically in recent years, and the program needs reforms.

Republicans want to remove food stamps from the Farm Bill so that the policies actually related to farming can be passed on their own merits, with food stamps debated separately.

“This is lunacy, what is going on here,” Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson told the Fargo Forum in an article for which reporter Don Davis apparently couldn’t find any Republicans to quote.

Only in Washington DC could an attempt to separate what’s been agreed upon from what’s not been agreed upon in order to expedite legislation we’re told is vital to an important industry in the country be described as “lunacy.”

“I completely reject this Republican move to play political games with the livelihoods of U.S. farmers and the lives of hungry Americans,” Minnesota Congresswoman Betty McCollum told the Forum. “It is time for the House to take up and pass the bipartisan Senate farm bill.”

But who is playing games with the livelihood of US farmers? We could ask why the livelihood of farmers is so tied to legislation in Washington DC – that in and of itself is troubling – but beyond that, what Republicans want to do is pass the legislation that directly impacts farmers right now while debating the controversial entitlement program that has nothing directly to do with production farming separately.

I think Democrats are outraged because that makes so much sense. They’re outraged because they can keep a lot of bad food stamps policy in place by tying it to unrelated agriculture policy and then beating Republicans up balking at food stamps policies by accusing them of hurting farmers.

It’s a neat ploy, but Republicans are calling the bluff.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • Brent

    May they both fail.

    Of course, this is government, so no bill means just continuation of the status quo. Liberty literally can not win by design.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I’m not necessarily arguing in favor of the farm bill

  • Jonesy

    Unfortunately for supporters of the actual “farming” portions of the farm bill, they need the fluff of food stamps in order to get the votes of politicians from non-ag states/districts. It’s a mutually beneficial (or detrimental, depending on your opinion of what goverment should be responsible for) relationship.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob


      I wish we could have a debate about why farmers can’t farm without the farm bill. You almost get the idea that people would stop eating if Congress didn’t pass legislation.

      • Jonesy

        If there wasn’t a farm bill, the large corporate farms wouldn’t have millions in government subidies to drive up land/equipment prices and force the smaller family farms (who obviously receive far less in gov’t subsidies) out of business. This would go against the ideals of those in charge of both political parties, as the large corporate farms are much more friendly with political patronage.

        • nosycophant

          I think that could be referred to as wanting (and succeeding) to control the people through the food supply.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          What’s ironic is that it’s the smaller, family farms that make up the imagery used to sell the farm bill.

          • Jonesy

            I would love for the subsidies to end. It’s tough to compete on land rent when you receive $30,000 and your neighbor receives $1 million.

      • Eurekacon

        We would just offshore more production. Food consumption wouldn’t necessarily change.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          Maybe, I don’t think you’re right, but so what if you are?

          • Eurekacon

            How am I not right? My point is that production would shift because farmers/agribusiness in the U.S. would be less competitive and lose their share in the global market without support (and other producers would enter the market due to this opening). On the consumption end, ceteris paribus, consumers would simply purchase more meat from Brazil, pasta made from Argentinian wheat, and t-shirts made from African cotton. One thing that is unclear, and probably non-existant, is how is the SNAP program connected to purchasing only from U.S. produced food? And, by extension, is that a desired policy outcome?

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            My point is that production would shift because farmers/agribusiness in the U.S. would be less competitive and lose their share in the global market without support

            I don’t think US farmers would necessarily be at that much of a competitive disadvantage. Depending on food type, of course. Some foods ship better than others.

            I guess you said simply that we’d see “more” and you’re right, but it would be marginal.

          • Eurekacon

            Why would they not be at a disadvantage? Here are the drivers then of the subsidy push:

            1) Farming lobbies, typically the corporate lobby like Monsanto, Cargill, cotton Unions. They are pushing for more fed. dollars to boost the incomes but not necessarily maintain their livelihoods.

            2) The government has an interest in maintain food production for national and food security. By supporting strong commodity subsidies they are able to undermine international competition and be the “breadbasket of the world”.

            In that case you see it as being more of the 1st driver and farmers (whatever type) will persist without the assistance. Defend this argument. I submit that they will but it will take less McDonald’s consumers and more market conscious, “real” food eaters and perhaps integrated nutritional assistance programs with domestic producers. (http://usda01.library.cornell.edu/usda/ers/FAU/2000s/2003/FAU-07-30-2003_Special_Report.pdf)

      • sbark

        ….good idea…cut em, get govt out of Agic…….but also get govt out of agric in areas of EPA, Navigable waters regs, Animal rights, Enviro/global warming, control of exports…………
        Get Govt out of Agric………there is no reason USA consumers should be able to eat at 9% of disposable income, when the next cheapest in the world is Germany at 18%…………..Get the Govt out of leveling out and controlling food supplies, an periodic time of empty grocery stores would be good until the “import” from the Ukraine makes it……….

    • Mrthomasb

      It is just possible the Politicians are lieing to us, and the Food assistance program (Food Stamps) the part of the bill which would fail.

      NO! No one from Washington DC would ever lie to the American People.

  • mikemc1970

    They won’t have the debate because debates revolve around facts, logic, reason, and emotional tirades rarely, if ever, win them. They have dependencies to foster and votes to buy. Bread and circuses anyone?

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I think the major problem is that they need the cover of the farm bill to pass the food stamps, and vice versa.

      Put together, the bill appeals to farm state and urban state (for lack of a better term) legislators. Separate, each bill would get a lot more scrutiny, and they don’t want that.

      • mikemc1970

        I was meaning more along the lines that Democrats use emotion rather than reason. That having a serious rational debate about government dependency would be as fruitless to their causes as having a serious rational debate about global warming.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          Sure. The imagery of the farm bill is family farms. The reality is gigantic food conglomerates.

  • alanstorm

    “Why Don’t Democrats Want To Have A Straight Debate On Food Stamps?”

    Human nature – nobody likes going into fight knowing they’re going to lose.

  • mickey_moussaoui

    Rob, this subject is too cerebral for libs. Tone it down. How can they wrap their emotions around this subject? Mix in Farmers and guns or unhappy farmers wives or better yet…gay farmers. That’s the ticket.
    jeeze, you act like everyone is well informed about ag issues. Keep in mind that most libs think food comes from a store or restaurant.