The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

July 17, 2013

Our View: Empty promises, empty plates

— We think we can all agree that the nation’s farm bill has little to do with farming these days — especially the family farm. Much of the mammoth bill has to do with providing funding for the nation’s food stamp program.

So separating out the nutrition part of the farm bill and making it a standalone item might make sense — if we thought members of Congress were up to the task.

But the divisions are so deep and playing politics is so entrenched that we have real concerns. Those who receive food stamps through the nutrition part of the bill would be left without the assistance they need while our representatives and senators jostle for position in Washington, D.C.

And that’s just sad.

U.S. Rep. Billy Long of Missouri’s 7th District was among those in the majority voting last week when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a farm bill that eliminated food stamp funding.

Here’s what Long had to say in a statement he issued on Friday: “The nutrition part of the farm bill never should have been part of it in the first place. The farm bill I supported yesterday (Thursday) is a good step in the right direction of separating these two issues. We need to provide certainty to our farmers who feed the nation. The next step Congress will be taking is addressing nutrition as a standalone item.”

So what is he saying? We will help farmers who feed the nation, but right now we have no plan on how we are going to feed the poor?

Missouri alone has 437,000 families who use the food stamp program.

If setting up a nutrition bill separate from the farm bill really was important to legislators like Long, they would have had it in hand already. The House in late June rejected the farm bill altogether. The Senate in June overwhelmingly passed its version of the farm bill with about $2.4 billion a year in overall cuts and a $400 million annual decrease in food stamps. Passage of that version would have made sense.

What doesn’t make sense is passing a limited farm bill with the promise of a nutrition bill to help feed the poor.

Promises don’t put food on the table.

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