US Rep. Jim McGovern says House GOP farm bill 'rotten deal for poor people'

Springfield Republican, September 6, 2018
U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, urged federal lawmakers this week to put forth a final version of the "farm bill" that invests in American farmers and supports all citizens facing hunger and food insecurity -- not one that cuts food stamps and undermines conservation assistance.

McGovern, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee's Nutrition sub-panel, slammed House Republicans' version of the wide-ranging legislation Wednesday, as lawmakers from both chambers met to reconcile differences between their respective versions of the farm bill.

He called on lawmakers to adopt the Senate's measure, arguing that, while not perfect, it "reflects the needs and priorities of families and famers [sic] throughout the country."

"Senate Republicans worked with Democrats on an honest, good-faith effort to create good policy that helps people. Now, let's contrast that with the farm bill that was jammed through the House of Representatives," he said in remarks before the conference committee.

McGovern cast the House's debate on such legislation as a "very frustrating experience," criticizing the bill's inclusion of "anti-environment provisions that reduce access to clean water and undermine critical conservation assistance to farmers."

The congressman further blasted House lawmakers for adding what he called "shameful cuts" to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as food stamps, in their version of the farm bill. 

Noting that the House Agriculture Committee held 23 hearings on SNAP in the years leading up to the 2018 legislation, McGovern argued that not one of the witnesses to come before the panel "suggested any of the controversial, pro-hunger provisions included in the House bill."

"Not one of them suggested that we kick hundreds of thousands of kids off free school meals. Not one suggested that we cut SNAP benefits by over $20 billion and reduce or eliminate benefits for nearly two million kids, veterans, working families and vulnerable adults," he said. "Honest to God - with all the partisan bickering in our country, you would think reducing hunger might be something we could all agree on. But in the House of Representatives, it's controversial."

McGovern, who argued that hunger is "a political condition" which lawmakers could end,  urged other conferees to join him in supporting the nutrition measures included in the Senate's version of the bill. 

"What the House did is a rotten deal for poor people and it would make hunger worse," he said. "I look forward to working with all of you to do the right thing."

McGovern has been a vocal critic of the House-passed farm bill, which among many things, calls for more than $20 billion in cuts to SNAP benefits over 10 years, and contains provisions that could lead to over 2 million low-income Americans losing their benefits or seeing declines in financial assistance.

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