Make Our Food Safe
07/12/2013

"House Republicans Push Through Farm Bill, Without Food Stamps"

The New York Times | By Jonathan Weisman and Ron Nixon

WASHINGTON — Republicans muscled a pared-back agriculture bill through the House on Thursday, stripping out the food stamp program to satisfy recalcitrant conservatives but losing what little Democratic support the bill had when it failed last month. It was the first time food stamps had not been a part of the farm bill since 1973.

The 216-to-208 vote saved House Republican leaders from an embarrassing reprisal of the unexpected defeat of a broader version of the bill in June, but the future of agriculture policy remains uncertain. The food stamp program, formally called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, was 80 percent of the original bill’s cost, and it remains the centerpiece of the Senate’s bipartisan farm bill.

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One overlooked provision in the bill came from Representative Dan Benishek, Republican of Michigan, a surgeon, and would require additional economic and scientific analyses before a 2010 law to improve the food safety system goes into effect.

A spokesman for Mr. Benishek, Kyle Bonini, said it was meant to protect farmers “from being hit with more costly regulations.” 

But food safety advocates said that they were surprised by the provision and that it would effectively halt implementation of the law, which gives the Food and Drug Administration greater authority over food production.

Erik D. Olson, director of food programs at the Pew Charitable Trusts, which was involved in promoting the law, called the provision “an extremely troubling development.”

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