Farm bill a good thing for Alabama

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, February 5, 2014

It took Congress three years, but it finally happened. The United States Congress passed a new farm bill this week, and it is expected to be signed in to law by President Obama today.

The farm bill is quite hefty, weighing in at just a little under $1 trillion with over $750 billion of that total going to the food stamp program.

Farm bills are traditionally renewed every five years. This bill was two years late, as the last farm bill passed by the government expired in 2012. The bill’s passage was held up over disagreements between Republicans and Democrats regarding the funding received by programs governed by the bill.

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Most of this disagreement came down to funding the food stamp program. Republicans said they would not pass the bill unless there were substantial cuts made to the program. Democrats refused to pass any bill that made substantial cuts to the program.

In the end, the two sides managed to compromise and decided to cut food stamps by only $8 billion. This is significantly less than the $40 billion cut asked for by Republicans last year.

While any cuts that will hurt the poorest Americans are never good things. The cuts to the food stamp program mainly function by closing loopholes that allowed recipients to abuse the system.

Recipients will no longer be allowed to game the system by buying water bottles with food stamps, pouring out the water and then selling the water bottles back. Illegal immigrants, the deceased and traditional college students will no longer be allowed to receive food stamps.

The bill also closed a loophole that artificially increased benefits for food stamp recipients who received federal heating assistance.

Alabama, especially the Wiregrass, has cause to celebrate the passage of the bill. The new bill increases federal support for crop insurance and increases the amount of subsidies available to peanut farmers. Both of these will help to stimulate the economy of Pike County.

While it’s rare that Congress can come together to accomplish something in this political climate, we applaud leaders for coming together to pass this important bill.