Langevin Statement on Farm Bill Conference Report

Jan 29, 2014 Issues: Animal Welfare, Children and Families, Vote

Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) submitted the following statement for the record after voting against the Conference Report on H.R. 2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act:

Congressman James R. Langevin
Statement for the Record on the Conference Report for H.R. 2642
January 29, 2014

I rise today in reluctant opposition to the Farm Bill. While there is much to commend in this compromise, I cannot in good conscience vote for a bill that cuts $8.6 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

I applaud all my colleagues on the Agriculture Committee for their hard work and long hours spent putting this agreement together. Today’s bill makes a number of much-needed changes to our nation’s agricultural policy. It finally ends the practice of direct payments to farmers in favor of real crop insurance, a laudable achievement that the Agriculture Committee has been working towards for over a decade. The bill expands support for organic foods, local farm-to-table programs, and farmers’ market nutrition, all of which I have strongly supported and will continue to champion.

This agreement also maintains important animal welfare provisions. In particular, I am thankful for Congressman Schrader’s leadership in working to strip the King Amendment, which would have invalidated hundreds of state animal welfare laws, from the conference report. I am also pleased that the committee chose to include animal fighting restrictions that will help to forever end this abhorrent practice by making it a federal crime to attend an animal fighting event.

Unfortunately, beyond these important reforms, a full third of the savings in this bill comes from cuts to SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. SNAP helps millions of Americans living in poverty put food on the table, including nearly 200,000 in Rhode Island.  Eighty percent of the households receiving SNAP earn below the federal poverty level, making it a vital form of assistance for countless working families. Today’s bill will have a disproportionate effect on low-income seniors, working poor families with children, and individuals with disabilities. And for those who are currently struggling to find work, many of whom have just seen their emergency unemployment benefits expire due to the inaction of this Congress, the loss of SNAP assistance could be a crippling blow. Rhode Island has the highest unemployment rate in the nation; I will not vote to make life more difficult for thousands of our families.

Last year, I joined several of my colleagues in taking the SNAP Challenge, a commitment to living on no more than $4.50 per day in food costs. Every member of Congress should experience what it’s like to subsist on this paltry amount to better understand the impacts of the decisions we make on the lives of our constituents. Sadly, as we observe the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty, the SNAP cuts in today’s bill seem to be part of a war on the poor. This is only one element of a worrying trend from the House majority that would lead us toward a world where the rich take care of themselves and the poor fight for the scraps. I hope that my colleagues step back from this misguided policy before it is too late.

Although I am unable to vote for these cuts to food assistance, I will continue to work with my colleagues to promote sensible agricultural policies that promote healthy eating, sustainable farming practices, and ample food for every American.