News & Politics

Republicans Plan Major Blow to Hungry Families in Farm Bill — And Line Up a Billionaire Giveaway

If you already have a lot, Republicans want you to have more. If you’re struggling, they want to add to your burdens.

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - MARCH 6, 2014: Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Photo Credit: Christopher Halloran /

Every now and then, a headline gets it exactly right. Like this one from CNN: "House farm bill seeks to restrict food stamp benefits while allowing subsidies for billionaires." It’s not over-the-top hyped up but it draws a real clear contrast between how low-income families and billionaires are being treated by Congress. House Republicans continue their push to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and institute harsher work requirements (even though the program already has work requirements for people who aren’t elderly, disabled, or parents). But billionaires? Republicans want to repeal rules blocking absentee billionaires from receiving piles of farm subsidy cash.

The current draft of the farm bill would exempt pass-through businesses—remember that particular form of rich person’s tax shelter from last winter’s tax scam fight?—from counting against means testing requirements to receive farm subsidies.

"It'a basically cronyism," said Daren Bakst, a Senior Research Fellow in agriculture policy at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

"Someone in Beverly Hills might be getting a check because somehow they're 'farming' in Iowa," Bakst added.

Republicans also plan to allow first cousins, nieces, and nephews of these “farmers” to qualify for farm subsidies if they do any backbreaking farm work like participating in a conference call every now and then.

Some of the Republican members of Congress out there touting the importance of stricter work requirements on SNAP are themselves raking in farm subsidies:

Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Louisiana, who has received $444,640 in federal farm subsidies, lauded the SNAP work requirements, saying that they will "help people break out of the cycle of poverty and climb the economic ladder."

Rep. Kristi Noem, R-South Dakota, who has received $573,568 in federal farm subsidies, said the bill "establishes real work requirements for our nutrition programs," and is a "big step in the right direction."

If you already have a lot, Republicans want you to have more. If you’re struggling, they want to add to your burdens

The farm bill already failed once in the House, so probably nobody knows where this is headed—but even if these provisions don’t become law, it’s vital to remember that Republicans wanted them.


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Laura Clawson is the Labor editor at Daily Kos Labor, and a contributing editor at Daily Kos.