January 30, 2014

Congressman Dent's Comments on House Passage of the Farm Bill

“Yesterday, the House adopted the Conference Report to accompany H.R. 2642, the Agriculture Act of 2014, a five year comprehensive farm bill. The bipartisan agreement provides predictability and stability for our nation's farmers while making necessary reforms to farm and nutrition programs that modernize the policies impacting the nation’s agriculture industry.

Specifically, the agreement ends the federal direct payment programs (DPP) to farmers. Previously, payments were made without taking into consideration the actual economic need of the recipients or the existing market conditions for farm goods. Unlike the current structure of DPP, the Agriculture Act more accurately reflects true market conditions, while saving $4.5 billion per year.

The Agriculture Act overhauls federal dairy policy by repealing outdated and ineffective dairy programs. The dairy program reforms in this Conference Report will provide greater stability for consumers. Without the adoption of the Agriculture Act, milk prices could have potentially doubled. Further, this Act shields Pennsylvania’s dairy farmers, many of whom farm in the 15th District, from market volatilities.

The Agriculture Act brings necessary revisions to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by changing eligibility requirements for food stamps. States will no longer be able to ‘game’ the system by linking the Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to eligibility for food stamps. Under the current system some states can provide $1 of heating assistance to individuals, allowing those individuals to be signed up for food stamps. This Conference Report ends this abusive practice. It also prohibits the Federal Government from advertising to actively sign-up individuals for food stamps, as well as advertising SNAP benefits in foreign countries. Also of note, new screening requirements will prohibit illegal immigrants, lottery winners, traditional college students, and the deceased from receiving benefits at the expense of taxpayers.

At the same time, the Act increases the amount of assistance available for food banks across the country as dedicated staff work to meet the needs in their communities.

Overall, the program reforms, consolidations and eliminations amount to a reduction of federal spending by $23 billion over ten years, a significant step forward as we work to reduce the size and scope of the federal government.

I am disappointed that this legislation does not address some key issues, like overhauling the Sugar Program to benefit consumers and ultimately protect American jobs. But I ultimately supported the agreement because it contains many necessary reforms that assist farmers and generate savings for consumers and taxpayers."