The farm bill won approval from the House Agriculture Committee last week on a 35-11 vote. But it faces an uncertain future with mounting conservative opposition, led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), chairman of the Republican Study Committee.
Shortly after last week’s committee vote, Jordan wasted little time to announce he is “strongly opposed” to the bill. He predicted the bill could face opposition from lawmakers in both parties if it comes to the House floor for a vote.
“You would see a significant number of conservatives oppose it and you may see some Democrats oppose,” he said. “This thing spends a boat load more money than it did in the last farm bill. We went from $600 billion in the last farm bill in  to almost a trillion dollars.”
Given his leadership of the Republican Study Committee – a sizable group of House Republicans committed to a conservative agenda – Jordan’s opposition sends a strong signal to other lawmakers.
He certainly isn’t alone in criticizing the farm bill. Heritage’s Diane Katz, a research fellow in regulatory policy, said reform is possible with “a bit of congressional backbone.” She outlined five ways Congress could improve farm policy.
“Farm subsidies constitute the nation’s largest corporate welfare program—the costs of which burden taxpayers and increase food prices,” Katz wrote. “With farm income setting records—and a soaring federal budget deficit—it is a particularly opportune time to reform agriculture policy.”
Jordan said 80 percent of the spending under the bill would be spent on food stamps.
One out of every seven Americans, about 45 million people, is currently on food stamps, which is known officially as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The program is estimated to cost $73 billion this year.
Despite the higher cost of the farm bill, proponents claim it includes budget cuts because it would reduce the rate of growth assumed by the federal budget baseline. The Agriculture Committee passed an additional $16 billion in such “cuts” to SNAP over 10 years, which amounts to about 2 percent of total food-stamp spending.
Jordan pointed to the perverse incentives that reward states for signing more people up as an explanation for the exorbitant growth in food-stamp dependency.
“You do not want to send those kind of incentives; you want to send the right kind of incentive,” he said. “We want to help you get to a better life. We’re going to have a work requirement, we’re going to help you get the skills and the training you need, but you’re going to have to work. And if you’re truly needy, we’re willing to help but it should be for a limited amount of time.”
Otherwise, Jordan said, the results are bad for society and the economy.
“One in seven in the population now think it’s OK for someone else to feed them,” he said. “And that’s bad for a culture, bad for society, bad for your country.”
Jordan’s remarks came as the Obama administration decided to waive work requirements for other federal welfare recipients, essentially repealing the core of the welfare reform law Congress passed in 1996.
The congressman said the best case scenario would be for the farm bill not to pass and Congress to agree on a short-term extension. “Wait for the reinforcements and let’s fix it next year,” he suggested.
Tray Smith is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation.