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House approves farm bill, leaves food aid in limbo

Posted by: Corey Mitchell under Minnesota congressional Updated: July 12, 2013 - 5:17 AM

By COREY MITCHELL and JIM SPENCER

The U.S. House voted along party lines today to approve the farm bill after stripping aid for food stamps out of the legislation, a move that places the future of federal nutrition programs in limbo.

The nearly 536,000 Minnesotans who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, the formal name for food stamps, will continue to receive aid, but Thursday's vote made clear that Republicans intend to make significant reductions to the program.

The bill approved Thursday says nothing about food stamps, which historically have accounted for more than 80 percent of the farm bill spending. Republican leaders said they will vote on a separate measure to address nutrition programs.

"This was a direct assault on Minnesotans who are currently receiving assistance to get back on their feet," said Colleen Moriarty, executive director of St. Paul-based Hunger Solutions Minnesota.

Legislation offered last month was voted down because fiscal conservatives wanted much deeper cuts in the food stamps program than the proposed $20 billion in reductions over the next decade.

Minnesota's House delegation voted strictly along party lines on the bill, with Republicans Reps. Michele Bachmann, John Kline and Erik Paulsen supporting. Democratic Reps. Collin Peterson, Keith Ellison, Rick Nolan, Betty McCollum and Tim Walz voted against the legislation.

According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, 260,000 low-income households in Minnesota received aid in April 2013, the most recent month for which data is available.

In fiscal year 2012, Minnesota received $724 million in food stamp aid, more than triple the total from a decade ago, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

Minnesota's House delegation voted strictly along party lines on the bill, with Republicans Reps. Michele Bachmann, John Kline and Erik Paulsen supporting. Democratic Reps. Collin Peterson, Keith Ellison, Rick Nolan, Betty McCollum and Tim Walz voted against the legislation.

Last week, more than 500 farm groups sent a letter to Congress requesting that farm programs and food stamps not be separated.

"We believe that splitting the nutrition title from the rest of the bill could result in neither farm nor nutrition programs passing, and urge you to move a unified farm bill forward," the letter read, in part.

It remains unclear if the Democrat-controlled Senate will be willing to negotiate with House leaders on a farm bill that does not include nutrition programs. The upper chamber passed a farm bill last month that called for smaller food stamp cuts than Republicans sought.

Staff writer Kevin Diaz contributed to this report.

 

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