Politics & Government

Rep. Yoder expects vote on farm bill in September

A farm bill is within reach, likely coming to a vote in September, said U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder.

Yoder represents suburban Kansas City but was visiting Sedgwick County as well as central and western Kansas on Friday in his role on the agriculture subcommittee of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee.

He stopped by the McCurry Brothers Angus farm west of Bentley to visit with members of the local Farm Bureau to hear specific concerns about farm policy and federal regulation of farming.

The first topic: the farm bill.

The Senate is expected to vote on its version of a farm bill on Monday, Yoder said, and he expects the House to vote on its version sometime this month.

The biggest difference between the two bills is the size of the cuts being made to the food stamp program, which provides assistance to low-income people.

Funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has been a point of contention as Congress has tried – and failed – to pass a farm bill.

The Senate bill would cut about $400 million a year from the SNAP program, or about 0.5 percent. The House bill would cut SNAP spending by about $2 billion a year, about 3 percent, and partially eliminate the practice of automatically awarding food stamps when people sign up for certain other welfare programs.

Yoder said he expects the two bills to be sent to a conference committee to determine a single version before the August recess.

“That’s where the hard work comes,” he said. “If they add a lot of the SNAP money back in, you’ll lose Republicans in the House. And if they take more out, they will lose Democrats in the Senate. Finding a bill that can be supported by the most liberal members of the Senate and the most conservative members of the House is very difficult … but I think we’ll get it done before the end of September.”

The last farm bill expired last year after the U.S. House couldn’t pass a bill. The Senate approved a bill.

As the new farm bill is negotiated, Yoder said it’s pretty clear that the direct payments to farmers are history, but that crop insurance programs will remain or grow stronger.

That’s something farmer Kent Winter argued for vehemently Friday. There have been efforts by some liberals in Congress to trim crop insurance programs.

Only one year has Winter had to draw out more than he paid in, he said, but having that backdrop is absolutely crucial. Farmers have huge expenses, and a drought or hailstorm would otherwise end the business.

“I can’t emphasis how important that program is,” Winter said. “We are more than family-owned businesses out there. We are making food. A lot of the folks raised on the pavement take the food supply for granted.”