Lack of US farm bill and current holdup of legislation in Congress mostly over nutritional benefits for the law, not farming, government official says

BAD AXE, Michigan , January 24, 2014 () – The lack of a Farm Bill and the current hold up of legislation in Congress is mostly over nutritional benefits for the law, not farming, according to U.S. Rep. Candice Miller.

"It's a misnomer, only 20 percent of the farm bill is about farming," the Republican said.

Miller talked to Huron County commissioners Thursday afternoon before sitting down with the Tribune's staff to discuss federal policy. She said there is an end in sight for the troubled bill, which she said has been rejected numerous times by both the House and Senate.

"I'm going to vote for it," she said when she was asked by county commissioner Steve Vaughan on the status of the bill.

She said the likely cuts to SNAP food assistance should be around $9 billion to $10 billion. That shows a compromise from $40 billion in cuts the House originally called for and the $4 billion in cuts the Senate proposed.

She attributed some of the delay in the bill on the influx of new members of Congress who have had extreme views on free trade. Knocking on wood, she said a sugar program would be part of the Farm Bill, an aspect of the legislation some of her colleagues have challenged her on.

"I don't need a lesson on being conservative -- I'm very fiscally conservative," Miller said later at the Tribune office.

An aide at Sen. Debbie Stabenow's office in Washington D.C. agreed that the two sides are close on the Farm Bill, but said that the proposed cuts are closer to $8 billion. That savings is planned to come from programs designed to take out fraud and corruption in the system.

"We were able to find savings in the food assistance program by focusing on fraud and misuse, while protecting support for families who need temporary help to put food on the table," Stabenow said to the Tribune in an email. "The program is there for families who need it."

Stabenow added the historic change in the bill would be a move away from direct deposit for farms and towards crop insurance.

"Instead of direct payments that pay out every year whether they are needed or not, we strengthen crop insurance so farmers pay a premium and get support only when they need it," the Michigan Democrat said.

Miller also agreed crop insurance is an important part of the Farm Bill.

Both lawmakers said they believe the bill could be approved in February.

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