Editor's note: John Stoehr is managing editor of the Washington Spectator, an independent political periodical published monthly by The Public Concern Foundation.
House Republicans pushed through a trillion-dollar farm bill - approved by the Senate Tuesday - that will cut food stamps by $8 billion over the next decade and reduce food allotments for more than 850,000 households by around $90 a month.
The measure passed despite opposition from Tea Party Republicans who were seeking even more savage cuts. If the Republican Party hopes to revive the Bush-era idea of "compassionate conservatism," this isn't the way to do it.
The bill was the culmination of a three-year battle over food stamps, also called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. House Democrats who supported the measure said they compromised. This version, they said, was better than previous ones; Tea Party Republicans had wanted a 5% cut, not 1%. The White House has signaled that President Obama will sign the bill.
The Senate passed a farm bill on Tuesday that ends direct subsidies for farmers and trims $90 a month from food stamps for 850,000.
The House had already passed the nearly $1 trillion farm bill that will set agriculture policy for the next five years. President Obama has said he would sign it into law.
The bill could be passed before the spring planting season. That's significant because farmers need to know early how it might affect prices and what to expect for their corn, wheat or tobacco yields.
It may be the most overlooked mega-bill of the past 12 months.
After taking a 72-22 leap through a Senate test vote Monday, the nearly $1 trillion Farm Bill is poised for final passage Tuesday.
While it's called the Farm Bill, in truth, it's more of a food bill. It sets five years of eating and farming policy in the United States, including what we grow, what you know about your dinner and how much government spends in the process. It cuts the food stamp program and increases spending on farmers markets. Whatever you think of Congress, this is a bill that deserves some attention.
Here's five lesser-known things the farm bill could mean to you:
Last Saturday, the Loaves & Fishes food pantry in New Haven, Conn., ran out of food.
Run by the Episcopal Church of St. Paul and St. James, the pantry has been pushed to the brink from recent decisions in Washington that resulted in cuts to food stamps and jobless benefits for the unemployed.
For most of last year, the little food pantry was feeding an average of 225 families a week. Then, starting in November, more families started showing up. That's when Congress failed to extend a recession-era bump in food stamps, which cut $11 less from each recipient's monthly grocery money.
The pantry is now feeding 300 families. And things could get worse.
A group of bipartisan lawmakers on Monday agreed to a deal on a farm bill that would end direct subsidies to farms in favor of crop insurance.
The deal could trim as much as $90 a month from food stamps for 850,000 recipients.
The farm bill would last five years and needs to pass both chambers and then be signed by the president.
The bill changes the current agricultural subsidy system. It ends direct payments to farmers for planting crops and replaces it with a revamped, beefed-up crop insurance program.
House Republicans stripped food stamp provisions opposed by conservatives and narrowly passed scaled back legislation on Thursday to overhaul the nation's farm programs.
Democrats chastised the GOP for ignoring initiatives they argue poor Americans need to keep from going hungry.
The vote was 216-208 and no Democrat voted for it. Twelve Republicans opposed the bill.
Debate on the floor was raucous and Democrats several times angrily screamed at Republicans and accused them of dismissing the needs of low income Americans.