Facing re-election this year, Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts is making no secret of his disdain for a new bipartisan compromise on a new, and long overdue, farm bill.
“I did not sign the 2014 Farm Bill conference report,” the three-term Republican senator tweeted Monday. “I cannot march backwards and deliver more spending, more regulations and more waste.”
The agreement, costing about $1 trillion over a decade, cuts about $19 billion in farm programs and does something that Roberts has long sought, which is ending direct payments to farmers, some of whom don’t farm at all. The House could vote on the measure this week while the Senate could render a judgment next week.
The measure also cuts, but doesn’t eliminate, food stamp payments by some $90 a month for about 850,000 households,The Washington Post reported.
“We’ve got a bill that makes sense, works for farmers and ranchers and consumers and families that need help and protects our land and water and our wildlife,” Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat and chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, told Reuters.
But Roberts, long one of the leading voices on U.S. farm policy, didn’t see it that way.
“I am disappointed to say that the negatives of this Farm Bill outweigh the positives,” Roberts said in a statement. “When you look at the policies of this report, we have a return to government subsidies and farmers planting for the government. While we all want to provide certainty to producers, the conference has missed an opportunity for greater and necessary reforms to our nation’s farm programs, federal nutrition programs, and burdensome regulations.”
The senator also was unhappy with how food stamps are handled.
“What we have today is a ballooning and expensive set of federal nutrition programs with a patchwork of eligibility standards, loopholes, and frankly unneeded give-a-ways to state governments,” Roberts said. “I understand and sympathize with the need for nutrition assistance for hardworking families. However, we cannot box off SNAP from necessary and timely reforms.”