Friday, June 22, 2012

Farm Bill Passes in Senate

So how did the Senate vote on the Farm Bill?

The Farm Bill passed the Senate on Wednesday, June 20, by a vote of 64-35. The Senate also voted on 73 amendments to the Bill. We told you about several of these proposals in recent days, and you reached out to your Senators to make your voice heard for a fair and just Farm Bill.

Let's take a look at the resulting votes for some of the issues you advocated for in the past weeks.

SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps) was a program up for several changes in the Farm Bill. SNAP's structure could have been completely changed with these votes. Instead, the most harmful challenges to SNAP were voted down. These amendments included:
  •  Sen. Sessions' proposal to eliminate categorical eligibility, and thus reduce the numbers of people who would be automatically enrolled in SNAP.  Defeated 56-43.
  • Sen. Sessions' amendment to eliminate state SNAP performance bonuses. Defeated 58-41.
  • The amendment by Sen. Sessions to require documentation of every member in a household before any one person in that household could get SNAP never made it to the floor for a vote. We were concerned about the drastic impact this would have on citizen recipients of SNAP benefits, especially children, who live in households with mixed documentation status. We are pleased that it did not surface for a vote.
Other amendments that we were watching included:
  • Sen. Nelson's proposal to keep SNAP bonus performances and specifying how they could be reinvested to improve SNAP.  This was approved on voice vote - so there was no roll call.
  • Sen. Gillibrand's amendment to restore the $4.5 billion cut to SNAP was defeated in a vote of 66-33.
In good news beyond the SNAP provisions, several of the amendments to bring benefits to farmers and conserve farmlands passed:
  • Sen. Brown's amendment to support rural development and beginning farmers.
  • Sen. Chambliss' effort to uphold water and soil conservation.
  • Senators Durbin and Coburn's proposal to limit crop insurance subsidies.
We thank you for your advocacy efforts on these amendments.  While the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness is disappointed that the cuts to SNAP will not be restore, as Sen. Gillibrand proposed, we are very glad that the mandatory structure of the program will remain intact, providing a vital safety net to those who are experiencing food insecurity.

The future of the Farm Bill in the House of Representatives is unclear. The House Agriculture Committee is not expected to release a bill until after the July 4th recess, so a Farm Bill will not hit the floor of the House for at least a couple weeks. Both the bill’s shape and future in the House remain unknown Please stay tuned for possible advocacy opportunities as the Farm Bill moves onto the House.