Government & Politics

Hartzler votes to reduce food stamps while expanding farm subsidy that benefits her

U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler
U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler

U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Missouri, voted Thursday for a bill expanding farm subsidies, of which she has received about $1 million since 1995 — and possibly far more.

The bill would distribute about $430 billion over the next five years to rural and agricultural programs. It also would add a requirement for the roughly 40 million people on SNAP, the federal food stamp program, to work or participate in work training for at least 20 hours per week to earn their monthly average of $125 for groceries. The effect would almost certainly be to reduce the number of SNAP recipients.

For those on food stamps, the work or training requirement would “reduce or eliminate their reliance on assistance and improve the lives of family for years to come,” Hartzler wrote in an op-ed supporting the bill.

Federal data show Hartzler Farms Inc., owned by the representative and her husband, received $995,498 from 1995 to 2016. That’s among the highest totals received by any member of Congress, according to the Environmental Working Group, which collects and tracks the data.

GOP Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri also supported the bill. He received $142,940 in farm subsidies from 1995 to 2001; he stopped accepting the subsidies when he was elected to Congress.

Hartzler’s $995,498 is just the amount of commodity subsidies, said Scott Faber, vice president for government affairs of the Environmental Working Group. It’s common for farmers to receive at least as much in crop insurance subsidies, Faber said. But his group couldn’t get access to that data.

“It’s especially egregious that a member of congress like Vicky Hartzler — who once said that running for Congress was part of God’s plan — would vote for a bill that cuts funding for the hungriest of Americans, and simultaneously increases subsidies to Hartzler Farms,” Faber said. “Apparently kicking the poorest Americans off of SNAP is God’s plan.”

Hartzler's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Proponents of the bill say it provides much-needed support for farmers. They also say that the work requirement for those on food stamps will empower them to burst out of the cycle of poverty and help themselves and their families.

The House narrowly passed its version of the farm bill, 213-211, as every Democrat and 20 Republicans voted against it. The farm bill under consideration in the Senate does not contain the work requirement.

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., introduced an amendment in May to the bill that would’ve rolled back funding for farm subsidies over a period of years, but it was voted down without making it into the final bill. Hartzler and Graves voted against the amendment.