BILLINGS – Montanans responded with extreme disappointment to U.S. House lawmakers’ failure to pass a farm bill Thursday.
“It’s just the way the House has evolved,” said Lola Raska, of the Montana Grain Growers Association. “You have the extreme factions of both parties that are gaining more of a presence, more of a voice, controlling more of the politics and splitting what used to be a two-party system.”
Every Montana farm organization expressed frustration at Thursday’s vote.
Republicans on the far right rejected the $100-billion-a-year funding bill for not taking a bigger whack out of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, and for not cutting farm subsidies.
Democrats balked at SNAP cuts totaling $2 billion a year and Republican-added amendments that made qualifying for the benefit more difficult. Early in the farm bill process, the Congressional Budget Office concluded that 1.8 million Americans would no longer be eligible for SNAP under the new farm bill rules. The CBO report didn’t address tougher restrictions added by Republicans during floor debates this week.
The farm bill now goes back to the House Agriculture Committee for retooling, but time is running out in the congressional year, which ends Sept. 30 and includes a long Fourth of July break and an August recess. Immigration reform is likely to consume much of the summer.