A new farm bill that preserves the food stamp program, as well as many subsidies for American farmers, was signed Friday by President Barack Obama. It is not a great or even a good bill, but it is about the best compromise that can be expected of this Congress.
The measure, which is expected to save almost $17 billion over 10 years, was long overdue. After more than two years of squabbling, Congress passed a bill that will not hurt as badly as had been feared for the millions of poor people who rely upon nutritional programs such as food stamps. That said, 175,000 Pennsylvania households will still lose, on average, $65 for food each month.
The program that helps feed the needy should not have been cut at all. But Republicans, who wanted severe cuts, deserve credit for reining in the reduction. The bill’s $800 million annual cut in food stamps amounts to a 1 percent bite out of the program.
Lawmakers also compromised on farm subsidies that, if eliminated, could have crippled rural America. The bill allows continued subsidies for growers of major crops. Farmers who produce corn, wheat, soybeans and rice will still be heavily subsidized.
Some farmers will lose direct government payments based on the acreage of farmland they own, regardless of the condition of their crops.
But stronger crop insurance should offer sufficient and affordable protection against losses. Farmers should not be provided billions of dollars in support during good growing years as well as bad.
This farm bill will not satisfy everyone, but the final version that became law is better than what had been initially proposed.