by Marion Nestle
Jun 18 2013

The Farm Bill farce: 227 amendments

The House of Representatives Rules Committee is dealing with the Farm Bill.  The Committee has posted the relevant documents on its website, so you can judge for yourself how our political system works these days.

It’s hard to know what to make of the amendments—all 227 of them—or which ones are worth attention.  Many deal with SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which the House wants cut to pieces.

The Rules Committee will decide this afternoon what to do about the amendments.  Discuss?  Invoke cloture and cut off discussion?  We will see.

In the meantime, here are some examples.

  • Repeals the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center.
  • Requires that at least 50 percent of the funds made available for the Farmers Market Nutrition Program be reserved for seniors.
  • Requires the Secretary of Agriculture to conduct a study on current USDA programs related to the Lesser Prairie Chicken to analyze the economic impact and effectiveness of these programs.
  • Facilitates cost-neutral purchasing of Kosher and Halal food within the Emergency Food Assistance Program and improve information provided to participating food banks on availability of Kosher and Halal food.
  • Allows states to conduct drug testing on SNAP applicants as a condition for receiving benefits.
  • Prohibits the availability of funds for China under the Food For Peace Act. 
  • Prohibits retaliatory actions against livestock producers and poultry growers when they express opinions about unfairness in the marketplace to public officials.
  • Prohibits the USDA from sending payments to the Brazil Cotton Institute.
  • Eliminates funding for Nutrition Education programs.
  • Establishes the sense of Congress that the Federal Government should increase financial support provided to urban community gardens and victory gardens to heighten awareness of nutrition and self-sufficiency.
  • Allows Skyview subdivision to meet the requirements of the USDA Rural Development grant for water and waste disposal.

You get the idea.  Think: lobbying.

The main issue is SNAP.  House Republicans don’t like it much (too expensive, too wasteful, too inducing of dependency and fraud).

You don’t believe this?  Here’s what the chair of the House Agriculture Committee, Frank Lucas, R-Okla., produced to convince House members to vote for a farm bill with $20 billion cut from SNAP over the next 10 years.



Addition: The White House says it will veto the farm bill if the $20 billion SNAP cut remains.


  • Ned Hamson

    Just makes me ill how much ideology rather than any form of truth or facts drives this process. I work in an area that is low-income white, Hispanics and Black-Americans. All the factories that employed people in this neighborhood have closed over the last 5-10 years. Food kitchens make up for what SNAP and WIC does not cover and these fools want to cut their neighbors off out of belief rather than fact, The neighborhood is smack in the center of the Speaker’s home district!

  • Anthro

    And how much will it cost to set up and administer all this drug testing? More than the $20 million saved, I’d wager. Can you imagine the scene at a low-income retirement complex–all the elderly lined up waiting to pee in a bottle? Do these idiots ever think beyond their vile stereotypes?

  • Anthro

    So, Marion, are you an official NYU “superstar”? (in the sense of the summer home “scandal” reported in the Times yesterday) :-))

  • Wendy Ringgenberg

    I am curious about your thoughts on requiring drug testing for SNAP beneficiaries. I am a public health professional who supports providing assistance, but not abuse of social systems. I find myself going back and forth with how to address drug use and mental illness services (lack thereof), personal accountability and social support, and providing opportunities for people to get well.

  • FarmerJane

    Things are not looking good in terms of the farm bill and farmer justice:
    *Dairy: Cornell University analysts are saying the proposed dairy legislation will transfer farm bill benefits away from smaller dairy farms to the larger farms and will provide major loopholes for mega-dairies to game the system.
    *Poultry farmers are asking for basic protections in terms of contract negotiations with major processors.
    *Ranchers and livestock farmers are asking that it be a violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act for companies to retaliate against famers who complain about their contracts or try to organize farmer collective bargaining.
    *Farmers are asking for establishing a USDA special counsel on agricultural competition. We are on the verge of another round of mergers and acquisitions in food and ag.
    *Farmers are seeking annual USDA report on concentration in the food and ag sectors, including industries providing inputs to farmers, commodity markets and processing, and retail grocery stores.
    *Transparency on the way long term packer/producer contracts are set and an end to market manipulations.
    It feels like the farmers and ranchers are pretty much lobbying for these things on their own, except for Food and Water Watch jumping into the fray. Thanks, FWW!