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Contact: Willy Ritch 207-841-8400
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree voted against the Farm Bill today, saying the bill cuts food stamps for the neediest families, doesn’t do enough to create real reform to crop subsidy programs and creates loopholes that guarantee income for big agri-businesses. The final version of the bill passed by the House this morning was the result of behind-closed-doors negotiations over the last few weeks.
“This Farm Bill is a real missed opportunity,” Pingree said. “Subsidies for the biggest farms were protected while help for struggling families was cut. Even bipartisan provisions that would have created real reform in crop subsidy programs were stripped out of this bill at the eleventh hour—and loopholes that would allow the largest agri-businesses to collect almost unlimited payments were included. I wish I could vote for this bill because there are some good provisions that we fought for to help sustainable farmers. But in the end, it’s just too much of a giveaway to corporate special interests.”
Pingree had successfully worked to include a bipartisan amendment that would have limited subsidy payments to high-income farmers, but at the last minute that provision was changed to allow individuals profiting up to $900,000 to still get subsidies.
Pingree said despite her opposition to the bill, she was glad a number of provisions from her local food bill were included, such as improved insurance for diversified farms, funding to grow farmers markets and boost local food marketing, and changes to help SNAP beneficiaries buy more fresh, local food directly from growers.
“We made some progress on improving opportunities for local farmers and consumers who want to buy local food,” Pingree said. “A lot of people worked really hard to push for these policies. Including them was a good first step, but we have a lot of work left to do in reforming farm policy in this country.”
The bill replaces traditional crop subsidy programs with a crop insurance program that would pay farmers if crop prices fall below current record-high levels. Pingree says that although it sounds like reform, it really isn’t.
“This new insurance program is pegged to such high prices that big producers could be collecting big checks even when they are posting profits. It could be even more wasteful than current subsidy programs,” Pingree said.
The bill also cuts the SNAP program (formerly food stamps) by over $8 billion. Maine is one of 16 states forced to bear the brunt of these cuts. While this is a reduction over previous House proposals, Pingree said it still widens the income gap and makes it harder for families to put food on the table. These cuts come on top of $11 billion in cuts that took place with the end of the Stimulus Act.
“That cut is less drastic than the $40 billion Republicans in the House wanted to slash from SNAP, but when the average family on SNAP has just over $1 to spend per meal, any cut is too much. Real reform that would have reined in spending on big agriculture could have freed up funding to support these benefits and invest in sustainable farming,” Pingree said.