By Christina Calloway
PNT senior writer
The Senate may have given an easy ride to its version of a highly-anticipated Farm Bill, but House Democrats and Republicans continue to battle it out in their attempt to pass the bill through the House.
U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., and Steve Pearce, R-N.M., stand on different sides of a Republican-proposed Farm Bill, which Lujan opposes and Pearce voted for.
“Last month, House Republicans brought a Farm Bill up for a vote that slashed $20 billion from food assistance programs that help families and their children from going hungry when they fall on hard times,” Lujan said in a press release. “House Republicans went one step further by bringing up a new bill that completely removes funding for these programs. At a time when New Mexico leads the nation in child hunger, the last thing we should be doing is attacking programs that help prevent our children from going to bed hungry.”
Pearce admits the bill isn’t a perfect solution but he says he voted for the bill to provide certainty for farmers.
“Since 1973, the legislation commonly referred to as ‘the Farm Bill,’ has included far more than just agricultural policy. Despite the name, the bulk of the legislation has been devoted to critically important nutrition assistance programs many New Mexicans rely on,” Pearce said. “That is why less than a month ago, I voted for a reauthorization of a Farm Bill that included both critical updates to our nation’s agricultural policies and much needed reforms that allow the nutrition assistance to continue for decades to come. Unfortunately, the House was unable to pass this version of the bill on the first attempt.”
Pearce says in order to provide necessary certainty to both farmers and working families of New Mexico, the House version of the bill needed to be divided into an agriculture bill and a nutritional assistance bill.
“This is not a perfect solution,” Pearce said. “We as a Congress must provide farmers and hardworking families nationwide with the certainty this legislation offers. The assurances nutrition assistance programs provide are too important to be denied and should be addressed immediately.”
Pearce said the separate bills provide an opportunity to remove waste, fraud, and abuse from these programs.
Lujan sees the Republicans’ actions as a ploy to take away nutritional programs for families.
“House Republicans have said this is a necessary step to extend farm programs, but it is nothing more than a cynical attempt to hide the fact that a significant number of my Republican colleagues, especially Tea Party Republicans, want to gut nutritional programs that help so many New Mexico families,” Lujan said. “In fact, this bill does nothing to support New Mexico’s dairy producers. House Republicans stripped out the Dairy Stabilization Program, a key component to dairy policy reform that would have helped producers across New Mexico.”
Pearce says the bill also includes an amendment with other western representatives that requires the secretary of agriculture to conduct a study on current U.S. Department of Agriculture programs related to the lesser prairie chicken.
The amendment would require the secretary to study and analyze the economic impact and effectiveness of these programs within 90 days of enactment, according to Pearce.
“This provision will help protect New Mexico jobs and give New Mexicans more ability to participate in a decision that would have a major impact on their communities and the state,” Pearce said.