Ky. Republican House members vote for version of farm bill that leaves out food stamps

07/11/2013 03:51 PM

All five Kentucky Republican congressmen voted with with majority of U.S. House Republicans on Thursday afternoon to push through a renewal of the farm bill that left out spending for the food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The measure passed 216-208 without a Democratic vote. Twelve Republicans voted against it.

The food stamps, or SNAP, program had been the center of controversy when the farm bill failed in a vote last month. Many Democrats said the measure didn’t include enough money for the program while many Republican said it included too much.

U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, a cattle farmer from Lewis County, said while the bill remains “flawed,” he said it was much improved without the food stamps spending.

“The farm bill I voted against two weeks ago was a food stamp bill masquerading as a farm bill, with 80 percent of the funding going to food stamps. It contained only meager welfare reforms barely slowing the exponential growth of that entitlement program,” Massie said Thursday in a statement.

Massie said the program that provides money to help low-income families afford food should be separate from the measure providing federal spending for crop insurance and subsidies for farmers.

“It is also important to recognize that decoupling food stamps from the rest of the bill gives us the opportunity to debate nearly $400 billion as a standalone item. As a matter of open and transparent government, our constituents deserve to have these two issues debated separately,” Massie said.

Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville was among a group of vocal Democrats who tried to delay the vote Thursday and took to the media to criticize the Republican’s move to split the bill in half.

In 2010, Kentuckians received about $1.2 billion in food benefits through SNAP. An average of 778,114 were enrolled in the program, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the program.

More than 60 percent of those Kentucky families receiving benefits lived below the federal poverty line. That number was higher in the 5th Congressional District in Eastern Kentucky where 70 percent of food benefit recipients lived below the poverty rate. The district is represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, the chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations and Revenue Committee, who also voted for the farm bill without the food stamps spending on Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, issued a statement saying the passage of the bill was necessary to provide certainty to Kentucky farmers and included a provision allowing the University of Kentucky to grow industrial hemp for research. However, Barr didn’t address the issue of the food stamps, or SNAP, program.

“Among other regulatory relief measures, this legislation includes my amendment requiring the Risk Management Agency to give farmers adequate notice prior to making any changes to requirements in existing crop insurance policies,” Barr said in a statement. “I am also glad that this bill offers the best opportunity to advance research of industrial hemp by taking a deliberate and critical first step to allow Kentucky the authority to move forward with controlled and studied cultivation of industrial hemp.”


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