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Food Stamp Bill Debate Continues Amid Wrangling Over Shutdown

By Clyde Hughes   |   Monday, 14 Oct 2013 01:38 PM

As wrangling over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling continues in Washington, D.C., the fight over the farm bill has been just as contentious despite that it has received less attention in the media lately. 

The Christian Science Monitor reported a divide grown more apparent between the Senate and the House, as parties negotiate the food stamp legislation.

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The House began negotiations Friday with the Senate over a final version of the five-year, $500 billion bill. The food stamp program has been a controversial issue among lawmakers. Nearly 47.8 million people are receiving food stamp benefits averaging $133 a month, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

The Republican-controlled House is calling for $39 billion in cuts from food stamps over the next decade, nearly 10 times the reduction proposed by the Democrat-run Senate.

Republicans sought to pull food stamps out of the farm bill altogether; but for now, it will be negotiated as one bill, according to Politico. 

"The farm bill’s nutrition program needs to be on the same time line as the bill’s other provisions," said Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House's agriculture committee. "It makes no sense to decouple farm and food programs; they go hand in hand.

"I worry that separating the two of them sets us on a path to no farm bill in the future. The Senate farm bill preserves the partnership between farm and food programs, and we should defer to that approach," Peterson added.

U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) said keeping the farm bill together is among her goals in the negotiations. 

"Farming and feeding go hand in hand, and a comprehensive farm bill recognizes this connection," said Fudge, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. "We can restore this connection by ensuring a five-year reauthorization for all programs that come under the farm bill."

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) said he hoped his House colleagues will give his negotiators some leeway in coming up with a compromised bill.

"From my own perspective I would ask the House to allow the conference committee as much flexibility as possible in negotiating with the other body," Lucas said.

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Related stories:

House GOP Moves to Double Food Stamp Bill Cuts

Farm Bill Defeated: Embarrassing Setback for House of Representatives

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