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Stutzman, colleagues hit for farm subsidies

A California congressman is calling out 14 colleagues – including Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd – for receiving agriculture subsidies while voting to remove food stamps from the federal farm bill.

In a report titled “Pork Barrel Politics” and showing an image of pigs feeding from a trough, the office of Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., states, “It is deeply alarming that some members of Congress are voting to provide themselves and wealthy special interests substantial farm subsidies while allowing authorization for effective and badly-needed nutrition programs that benefit 47 million people across the country to expire.”

Separating food stamps for low-income people from the 5-year farm bill was Stutzman’s idea, and the Republican House narrowly approved the split July 11. House leaders have said food stamps – officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP – will be considered as a stand-alone appropriation.

The Democratic Senate’s farm bill would continue to combine agriculture and nutrition programs under the same legislation, as has been the case for 40 years. Food stamps cost the government $78 billion in fiscal 2012 and account for about 80 percent of the spending in the current farm bill.

Miller’s report provides the names of the 14 legislators in question – all Republicans – and lists their net worth, how much federal money in commodity, disaster and conservation subsidies they have received, and how many residents of their home counties collect SNAP benefits.

The report finds that Stutzman, a corn and soybean farmer in LaGrange County, has received $196,296 in subsidies, and his net worth is between $14,019 and $1,082,995. LaGrange County is home to 2,116 food stamp recipients, or 5 percent of its population.

Stutzman’s acceptance of farm subsidies became a campaign issue in 2010, when he was first elected to the House.

Combined, the 14 GOP lawmakers have a net worth between $56.6 million and $124.5 million. They received $7.2 million in farm subsidies, topped by $3.48 million for Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn. The report says that 22 percent of the residents of Fincher’s home county get food stamps.

The subsidy data came from the Environmental Working Group, the net worth data from the Center for Responsive Politics and the SNAP data from the Department of Agriculture, according to Miller’s report.

James Wegmann, communications director for Stutzman, said Tuesday that Miller’s premise is flawed. He noted that Stutzman voted in favor of a farm bill that would eliminate direct payments to farmers to cover fluctuations in crop prices and yields. Both the House and Senate bills would replace direct payments with subsidized crop insurance.

Peter Whippy, press secretary for Miller, a congressman since 1975, said in an email that any farm subsidy is still a subsidy.

“They may have stripped the most egregious form of farm subsidy (with the exception of cotton) from their version of the farm bill, but if prices drop from the record highs they’re at right now, then it’s quite likely taxpayers will find themselves on the hook for even more money than the direct payments cost,” Whippy said about crop insurance.

“We would love to include the crop insurance premium support subsidies these members may have received, but that information isn’t available to us – which we address in our policy suggestions.

Whippy concluded, “Most members of Congress do not get farm subsidies, but those that do should be able to recognize the hypocrisy of serving themselves while denying others.”