LaMalfa and the farm bill

Our wealthy rice-growing Congressman’s self-serving politics

Congress now has only until Dec. 13 to pass a five-year farm bill. If it doesn’t do so, it will have to extend the current one-year extension of the farm bill passed in 2008.

Much has changed in agriculture since 2008, and the farm bill currently under consideration reflects many of those changes. It contains resources, for example, that help farmers transition to organic growing, support farmers’ markets and move more fresh produce into schools and hospitals, among other beneficial programs.

House and Senate versions of the farm bill are sufficiently similar to make passage possible, were it not for sharp disagreement about one issue—food stamps. House Republicans want to cut $39 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program over the next 10 years (last summer they tried to kill it altogether), eliminating hunger aid for millions of America’s working poor; the Senate bill would cut $3.9 billion over 10 years.

Among those who tried to kill the bill—shortly after he voted to let the United States become a deadbeat nation by defaulting on its debts—is our own Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale). But even as he was voting to throw 5 million people off food stamps, LaMalfa was supporting price guarantees for rice in the House farm bill, something that would benefit his rice-growing family. (Between 1995 and 2012, LaMalfa’s family received $5.1 million in subsidies.)

As The Sacramento Bee has pointed out, 15 percent of families in LaMalfa’s District 1 are below poverty level, and 19,600 families, with a median income of $20,873, received food assistance in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In other words, LaMalfa sought to support a safety net for himself and his family, while eliminating one for the poor in his district. That, in a nutshell, is why we still don’t have a new farm bill.