September 28, 2013
While the House of Representatives voted today to rejoin its food stamp bill with its agriculture-only farm bill, it took a critical step to ensure that separation of the farm bill becomes the norm in the future: It established staggered terms for these programs. Food stamps would be authorized for three years and agriculture programs for five years.
In order to make it far less likely that the programs will be put back together again, food stamps and farm programs must have different reauthorization schedules, with at least a two-year time difference. A one-year difference could easily result in both programs being on the same reauthorization schedule again.
The House, to its credit, took this important procedural step–a prerequisite for reform. There are still many substantive reforms that should be made in both agriculture policy and food stamp policy. The House can make separation part of any final farm bill if lawmakers actively push for this important change in conference with the Senate.
Just because the Senate and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV) have a combined farm bill without staggered terms doesn’t mean the House has to allow Reid to dictate how to develop agriculture and food stamp policy.