Mixed emotions triggered by passage of farm bill
To the extent a farm bill made it through Congress at all, a development described as nearly miraculous by one Washington legislator, last week’s bipartisan passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014 should be applauded by the grain-based foods industry. After all, in the prevailing hyper-partisan environment, expiration of the farm bill could not have been ruled out with certainty, a development that could have triggered laws resulting in wheat prices of $18 a bu and corn at $12.
While the agricultural nuclear option was averted with the new bill’s passage in the House of Representatives, the cut of $8 billion in funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in coming years should be viewed with ambivalence by the milling and baking industries. Yes, reductions were far more modest than proposed by House Republicans and mark an acknowledgement of the long-term importance of deficit cutbacks. Additionally, a solid case is made that the revisions should close loopholes in program operations rather than eliminate recipients.
Still, the cuts to SNAP are very real and represent a diminution of prospective food spending in the years to come. Expanded SNAP spending during the severe recent recession was shown to lessen food insecurity, which remains a challenge across the United States. For hungry households and a food industry that has faced flat to declining sales volume for longer than two years, these food stamp reductions are cause for genuine concern.