Rep. Jordan's Move to Block Farm Bill Has Tepid Support Among Constituents Who Rely On It

NEW YORK - JUNE 29: Unidentified volunteers help assemble meals at 'Target Party for Good' South Street on June 29, 2010 in New York City. (Shutterstock)
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Farmers, needy families, say they support new food stamp rules but want the bill de-coupled from immigration issues.

By Nick Evans, WOSU

Last week, Republicans in the Freedom Caucus helped scuttle the Farm Bill before members of the U.S. House of Representatives in a bid for tougher immigration standards. The Farm Bill provides support for farmers and for needy families in the form of food assistance.  One of the Congressmembers leading the charge against the bill was Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Troy).

Keitha Simpson helps run the Marysville Food Pantry in Representative Jim Jordan’s district.  Volunteers box up food for the morning rush and she stood in an aisle lined with cases of food.

“You name it—any kind of non-perishable you would want [looks like canned goods] canned vegetables, fruits, pastas, pasta sauce.”

Visitors can only come to the food pantry once a month. Even though volunteers pack boxes to feed visitors longer than the legally-required three days, that help can only go so far. Simpson said the pantry is meant to pick up when federal food assistance falls short.

“Most of our families are what we consider the working poor—they just, they just need that help to stretch the dollars,” she said.

Once known as food stamps, federal food aid is called SNAP—for supplemental nutrition assistance program, and it’s part of legislation known as the Farm Bill. The five-year measure is built on a coalition of urban representatives pushing for food aid, and rural lawmakers keen on protecting farm subsidies. But that compromise is teetering as Congress moves to the right.

The Farm Bill is stalled because Democrats oppose cuts to SNAP and tougher work requirements for recipients.  Far right Republicans, like Jim Jordan refuse to support it unless House leaders take up a hardline immigration bill. 

“I like the welfare reform in the farm bill—the food stamp reform—I think it’s needed, the work requirements that are there, so I like that.  But I also want to get immigration right," he said in a recent appearance on Fox News.

Marcia Haudenscheild relies on SNAP to help raise her granddaughter, and standing outside the Marysville food pantry, she said she was not happy with her congressman’s stance.

“You know people need it, so why—you know, and maybe I shouldn’t say this, but there’s people that’s coming here that just get all these hands out and then people that’s been here and the vets and stuff are the ones getting screwed,” she said.

But Haudenscheild, who’s disabled, is fine with stiffer work requirements. She just thinks there are better places to make cuts.

Just north of Marysville, Ryan Lee's family has managed a farm for seven generations, going back 150 years.  He pointed out newly-emerging soybean plants.  Lee Farms lies just north of Marysville.

“Yep, yep we’ve got beans that are just cracking the ground here," he said surveying a field.  He said the subsidies he receives aren't handouts.  

“And I think you know I’m not sure the SNAP program should be that much different.  If we have to meet requirements to receive that kind of aid then you know perhaps as part of a level and fair playing field everybody should," he said.

Lee doesn’t always agree with Jordan, but says he respects his willingness to vote his principles. Lee’s a little frustrated, but he’s not panicking yet. Jeff Robinson is another farmer nearby with deep roots in the area, and like Lee he’s frustrated with the gridlock, but still supports Jordan.

“Well I hate to hear, that I guess it seems like that they take one step forward and three steps back," Robinson said.  He added that Congress should de-couple food assistance from farm subsidies, and he’s annoyed the measure is being held up by a fight over immigration. 

“If they’re using the farm bill for leverage for something else I don’t think that’s correct either," he said.  "I think they should keep the farm bill the farm bill and whatever other issues they have let that be another issue.”

The U.S. Senate has its own version of the farm bill and the House may try again.  The current program expires in September.

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