Republican U.S. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio met with farmers in the Dayton area Wednesday to talk about the pending farm bill.
The bill provides funding for agribusiness and food stamps. Lewis Wallace of member station WYSO in Yellow Springs reports.
The farmers want a new bill passed soon to protect crop insurance, a federally-subsidized program that helps farmers cope when nature destroys their crops. But Portman recently voted against the Senate version of the omnibus bill.
“Most people including me want a farm bill,” said Portman. “I was not able to vote for the Senate farm bill because it didn’t have the reforms I thought were necessary in what is 80 percent of the farm bill more which is the nutrition side.”
The nutrition side of the bill means food stamps, and that’s the clincher: Portman supported an amendment that included $12 billion in cuts to the program beyond the $4 billion in cuts that did make it into the Senate bill.
The cost of the federal food stamp program, or SNAP, has doubled since 2008. But the number of people enrolled has gone up too, from 28 million in 2008 to 46 million last year. About half of the recipients are children, and most live near or below the poverty line.
In July, House Republicans angered some Democrats by passing a version of the Farm Bill that excluded SNAP benefits entirely. Congress has until October 1 to agree on a new version of the bill, which also determines farm subsidies and a variety of regulatory issues in agriculture.