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UPDATE: US House Republicans seek farm subsidy cuts, turning food stamps to cash

A peanut farmer harvesting his crop.

A peanut farmer harvesting his crop.

WASHINGTON — Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday proposed $31 billion in farm subsidy cuts and the conversion of food stamps into a cash benefit program, as a way to help balance the federal budget in 10 years.

The proposal, signed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, left it to the Agriculture Committee to pick the specific cuts, but cited the $5 billion-a-year "direct payment" subsidy, paid regardless of need, and the heavily subsidized federal crop insurance program as areas worthy of review.

It also called for turning food stamps, used by millions of poor and elderly Americans to buy food, into a cash payment and to allow states to "tailor their programs to their recipients' needs." Under the plan, food stamps would become a block grant.

Ryan proposed similar steps a year ago. At that point he asked for $30 billion in savings from farm supports. Farm groups and their allies in Congress would prefer to create new types of crop insurance coverage as part of a new farm bill and have opposed any cuts.

"With farm profitability - and (federal) deficits - continuing at high levels, it is time to adjust support to this industry to reflect economic realities," the Ryan budget document said.

The review should include "fixed payments that go to farmers irrespective of price levels and the current structure of the crop insurance program," it said.

Reformers have targeted the direct payment for elimination in the farm bill. They say it squanders money with no benefit to taxpayers. Lawmakers failed to pass a new farm bill by the end of 2012, at which point a temporary extension was put in place, including another year of direct payments.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas has a target of at least $35 billion in farm bill savings, with cuts split between agricultural programs and food stamps. Lucas' committee proposed $16 billion in food stamp cuts, the largest in a generation, in the bill that died at the end of 2012.

"We will consider the suggestions contained in Chairman Ryan's budget as is customary for the Agriculture Committee to consider a variety of viewpoints when crafting comprehensive legislation," Lucas said in a statement.

Food stamps are the major U.S. anti-hunger program with enrollment that swelled to a record 47.8 million people, including those receiving disaster aid, at the end of 2012.

The budget document said that cash benefits work well in welfare programs, so "now it is time to implement similar reforms across other areas of the safety net."

By allowing customized food stamp programs through block grants, "it encourages states to help recipients find work," Ryan's budget said, adding there should be time limits and work requirements for food stamp recipients.

Two-thirds of food stamp recipients are children, the elderly and disabled people, according to the think tank Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Food stamp advocates said the block grant proposal amounted to a $150 billion cut when Ryan proposed it in 2012 because of its limits on funds. This time, Ryan said the grants would be "indexed for inflation and eligibility." Some Republicans want to tighten eligibility requirements for the program.

Food stamp benefits are scheduled to fall in November with the expiration of an increase approved as part of the 2009 economic stimulus package.

Comments

chinaberry25 1 year, 1 month ago

About time. Let those rich farmers tighten their belts or better yet, grow a crop that we actually need. We can eat only so many peanuts and the government sells them overseas 10 cents on the dollar. Yet farmers are paid to not grow them. They grow just enough to get richer, buy 2 tractors in one year and a $35,000 4X4 pickup. How many farmers do you see driving an old pickup. None in sw Georgia for sure. Most have huge 2 story houses swimming pools and at least 3 kids in private schools and belong to the country clubs. Yeah, there are exceptions, but not many.

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VietVet1 1 year, 1 month ago

"conversion of food stamps for the poor into a cash benefit "

You got to be kidding!!! Why don't we just open the banks and let them walk in and draw whatever they want.

Get a life! Better yet, get a JOB!

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Watever 1 year, 1 month ago

The receipients of food stamps, already convert the card into cash, selling off what they need to purchase drugs.....

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jglass 1 year, 1 month ago

They NEED to seriously CUT BACK on food stamps and medicaid. There is so much fraud within the two.........................they could probably save millions and millions on this alone. However, I guess it would be a lilttle work investigating all of the fraud.

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RedEric 1 year, 1 month ago

It has been estimated by retired USDA executives that welfare Fraud is nearly 50% and welfare costs are right at $1 trillion per year. Fraud is, of course a major problem in all government programs. It is our fault, we have allowed those charged with fraud/theft to get off easy. Government fraud convictions should be followed by federal hard time imprisonment not country club prisons.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 1 month ago

Why aren't we cutting foreign aid? Why aren't we cutting corporate welfare? Why are we paying billions of dollars for the United Nations? Why are we not energy independent? Why are we not having a rational discussion about job creation? I'm being called to supper so I can't finish my rant except to say a plague on both houses of Ryan and Obama!

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 1 month ago

Democrats buying votes with our tax money. It will only end at the ballot box but too many voters are cashing their Guvvmint checks for that to happen. Lesson learned, November 2012......it was the Beginning of the End for the U.S.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 1 month ago

It's politicians! Doesn't have anything to do with party. There is no difference. It was Dick Cheney who said deficits don't matter anyway.

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erudite 1 year, 1 month ago

How about NO ONE getting assistance? If you can't make it on your own, TFB. Farmers, banks, car manufacturers, poor people, rich people, schools, big box stores...we are given the right to PURSUE happiness; we are not guaranteed happiness.

So, die in the streets, on the farms, in the mansions, wherever--do it yourself or not at all.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 1 month ago

Sounds okay. Are we going to let the American Farmer go totally free market? If you want to eat something besides $12.00 per pound ground beef gristle you might want to rethink that. Forget things like nuts and veggies. The Chinese, Indians, Indonesians will pay uber-prices for U. S. products. Do you realize how much pecans went up when the Chinese realized how tasty they are. Most foreign countries would buy our farms and processing facilities, ship the products across the pond without a slight hesitation. I work in agriculture related businesses and you better re-think farm subsidies for food commodities. There could be some savings realized if the GOP and Dems would discontinue ethanol inclusion in petro or go a different route in carbon based fuels. But that aint happening with the combination of goobers running the Congress and WH. The political structure not the ideologies is holding this nation back.

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Watever 1 year, 1 month ago

It doesn't matter what we tell (our) supposedly representatives, They are going to vote for WHATEVER, benefits them....

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FryarTuk 1 year, 1 month ago

I agree 100%. There is no public in public servants today.

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