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Food stamps, farm aid likely to be separated in new Ag bill

UNDATED (WSAU-Wheeler News)  There’s a move afoot in the U-S House to split the proposed five-year Farm Bill into two measures – one for farm programs, and the other for food stamps.

Media reports say the House Rules Committee will review the farm portion of the bill today, and a vote could come by the end of the week. Nutrition programs would be taken up later. It was not immediately known how Wisconsin dairy farmers would be affected. A proposed dairy market stabilization program was taken out of the package that was voted down by the House almost a month ago.

Yesterday House Agriculture Committee chairman Frank Lucas said for the first time that he would accept splitting the package, if the leadership can round up enough votes to pass it. For years, food stamps were part of the Farm Bill so urban lawmakers would approve rural programs. Now, the two parties are at odds over the size of the proposed cut in food stamp aid.

Even if the House passes a separate farm aid package, there’s no guarantee that the Democratically-controlled Senate would take it up. Senate Ag chair Debbie Stabenow says it would be a “major mistake” to split the bill. Farm groups also fear the outcome. Jon Doggett of the National Corn Growers Association said rural groups would continue to need urban allies, as rural populations drop and fewer members of Congress get voted in on farm issues.