Stutzman stands alone in farm bill opposition

Marlin Stutzman (WISH Photo)
Marlin Stutzman (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — President Barack Obama will sign a new five-year farm bill into law on a trip to Michigan on Friday.

It means farmers will no longer receive crop subsidies from the government in direct payments.

Nevertheless, the bill is being praised by Indiana Farm Bureau and Indiana politicians from both parties, with one notable exception. GOP Congressman Marlin Stutzman (R-3rd District), a farmer by trade, is speaking out against the farm bill.

“The farm bill is just more business as usual here in Washington,” said Rep. Stutzman.

Stutzman objects to the fact that the farm bill includes funding for food stamps. In fact, food stamps account for 80 percent of the spending in the bill that that’s worth more than $900 billion.

Stutzman fought to separate the two and last year the House of Representatives voted to do so.

But the combined farm and food bill won bi-partisan support in the Senate with both Indiana Senators — Republican Dan Coats and Democrat Joe Donnelly — voting for it.

Purdue Agricultural Economist Roman Keeney sees it this way.

“At the end of the day,” he said, “the farm bill looks a lot like it had in the past.”

That’s good news for Indiana farmers who can still receive subsidies for crop insurance. According to Indiana Farm Bureau, the biggest benefit is predictability for people involved in a risky business.

“We need a safety net,” said Megan Ritter of Farm Bureau, “that provides farmers a long term plan for how they’re going to manage the risk.”

Stutzman still doesn’t like it.

“Not only does this farm bill recombine foods stamps and farm programs,” he said, “it actually spends even more than the first bill the Senate passed.”

Spending on food stamps, however is reduced.

Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann, who oversees the state Department of Agriculture, issued a statement in support of the farm bill. One of the things she likes is also one of the targets of government watchdogs. It’s a new 15 cent fee on the sale of Christmas trees. The money will be used to promote the sale of more trees.

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