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Originally published Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 7:57 PM

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House OKs scaled-down farm bill sans food stamps

Dropping the food stamps lowers the cost of the farm bill from $100 billion a year to about $20 billion a year.

The New York Times

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WASHINGTON — Republicans muscled a pared-back farm bill through the House on Thursday, stripping out the food-stamp program to satisfy conservatives but losing what little Democratic support the bill had when it failed last month. It was the first time that food stamps had not been a part of the farm bill since 1973.

The 216-208 vote saved House Republican leaders from an embarrassing reprisal of the unexpected defeat of a broader version of the bill in June, but the future of agriculture policy remains uncertain. The food-stamp program, formally called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, was 80 percent of the original bill’s cost, and it remains the centerpiece of the Senate’s bipartisan farm bill.

Dropping the food stamps lowers the cost of the farm bill from $100 billion a year to about $20 billion a year.

Even in a chamber used to acrimony, Thursday’s debate was brutal. Democrats repeatedly called for roll-call votes on parliamentary procedures and motions to adjourn, delaying the final vote by hours and charging Republicans with callousness and cruelty.

Republicans shouted protests, trying to silence the most strident Democrats, and were repeatedly forced to vote to uphold their own parliamentary rulings.

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said he would try to draft a separate food-stamp bill “as soon as I can achieve a consensus.”

House and Senate negotiators could produce a compromise with the robust food-stamp program the Senate wants, but such a bill would almost certainly have to pass the House with significant Republican defections.

The bill keeps the changes that were in the version that failed last month, and amendments were barred. The bill would consolidate or cut numerous farm-subsidy programs, including $5 billion paid annually to farmers and landowners whether they plant crops or not.

The money saved from eliminating those payments would be directed into the $9 billion crop-insurance program, and new subsidies would be created for peanut, cotton and rice farmers.

The bill also made changes to a dairy program that sets limits on the amount of milk produced and sold in the United States.

One overlooked provision would require additional economic and scientific analyses before a 2010 law to improve the food-safety system goes into effect. Food-safety advocates said the provision would effectively halt implementation of the law, which gives the Food and Drug Administration greater authority over food production.

No Democrats voted for the measure Thursday, and 12 Republicans voted against it.

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

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