WASHINGTON — The House Agriculture Committee, aiming to clear a five-year farm bill that would reshape farm subsidies and reduce spending on food stamps, easily beat back challenges Wednesday from Democrats and Republicans.
The most contentious debate came on an amendment by some Democrats on the panel to block $16.5 billion in cuts to the food stamp program. The committee, led by Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, also preserved the bill's new program to stabilize milk supplies and defeated an attempt to repeal import restrictions on sugar.
Rep. Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, said he couldn't support the farm bill because of the food stamp cuts.
“These cuts will result in less food for hungry Americans, period,” McGovern said.
McGovern and other Democrats argued that an estimated three million people would be cut off from food stamps and 280,000 children would lose school lunch eligibility if the bill was approved.
Lucas said he represented a district that was depicted in John Steinbeck's “The Grapes of Wrath” and got out of college in Oklahoma at a time when farm prices and energy prices were depressed. He said he sincerely believed that all people who meet asset and income tests for the program will continue to receive food stamps.
“I'm very sensitive about trying to address good agriculture and good nutrition policy,” Lucas said.
The bill crafted by Lucas and Rep. Collin Peterson, of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the committee, takes aim at some state actions that expand eligibility and benefits for people who don't meet asset and income tests.