Food Stamps Versus Peanuts?

It didn’t get much attention in the chattering classes, what with the FastnFuror and the runup to the SCOTUS action on ObamaCare, but the Senate actually passed a Farm Bill with bipartisan support yesterday. As Ron Nixon of the New York Times reported, nobody was completely happy with the bill; Democrats accepted deeper food stamp restrictions than they wanted; environmentalists were less than excited about an expansion of crop insurance; and Republicans, of course, wanted less of everything other than anything benefitting their individual states. One disgruntled constituency to watch was the invariably difficult rice and peanut producers of the South, who are upset about the end of direct payments to big farmers and means-testing of crop insurance payouts.

With the action shifting to the House, however, the partisan dynamics will get far more difficult, as House GOPers following the Ryan Budget are going to insist on much deeper food stamp cuts and pursue a block-granting of the program to accompany their larger proposal to “block” Medicaid.

You could perhaps see something of an alliance between wealthy southern agricultural producers wanting some of their money back with Republicans wanting to decimate food stamps–but the southern farm bloc has so few Democrats these days that they can no longer deliver many votes across the aisle. The real push-comes-to-shove in any event will probably be on a House-Senate conference report after the House predictably passes a bill reflecting the Ryan blueprint.

For all the “bipartisan” ballyhooing over the Senate’s success in getting one of these huge suckers passed, it all does ultimately come down to the Ryan Budget versus the world, and thus final action on a farm bill this year remains unlikely unless it’s a hollow shell.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.