Congress has plenty of work to do these days, from staving off a looming government shutdown to negotiating difficult foreign policy decisions. Included in the long list of Congressional duties is making some progress on various agricultural policies that have been hanging in the balance for quite some time. This week, a number of issues were addressed—or notably not—in the House and Senate.
House Votes to Cut Food Stamp Budget by $39 Billion
In a high-profile vote, the House approved the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act last Thursday. This Act would cut $39 billion in spending from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, over the next decade. Under the provisions of the Act, nearly four million Americans would lose their food stamp benefits.
The Act is the latest in a series of steps House Republicans have taken to separate the food stamps program from the rest of the Farm Bill, where it has been housed for 40 years, and then to shrink the budget of the program. Republicans have called SNAP wasteful, pointing to evidence of food stamp abuse as a primary reason for reducing the program's budget. While some Democratic representatives agree that the program could use some budget restriction, the cuts have escalated so rapidly that the vote was totally split along party lines, with not a single Democrat voting for the NRWOA.
'Monsanto Protection Act' Extended for 3 Months
Back in April, we covered the passage of the so-called 'Monsanto Protection Act,' which allows Monsanto and other biotechnology companies to temporarily continue selling their products to farmers even if they were found to be unsafe for human consumption. The initial Act was included in short-term funding legislation when Congress was struggling to pass comprehensive budget reform in the spring. It was set to expire September 30th. But as new short-term budget legislation is passed, the MPA will be extended. A renewed effort from anti-GMO activists has taken root, but it remains to be seen whether their voices will be heard in the din of Congressional budget debates.
Farm Bill Set to Expire September 30; Still No Vote
Notably missing from this week's conversation around food policies was what exactly will happen when the current iteration of the Farm Bill expires on September 30th. The Bill is now nearly a year overdue, with plenty of crop, nutrition, and conservation programs depending on renewed funding from a new Bill. Stay tuned for updates on Congress's plan for renewing or re-writing this enormous piece of legislation.
About the Author: Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her other work can be found at her website, and you can follow her on Twitter @leahjdouglas.