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By Miriam Raftery

June 20, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – In a surprise action today, the farm bill was voted down by a 195 to 234 margin in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Currently a 2008 farm bill is in effect, but it expires September 30. Without action to pass a farm bill this year, the 1949 version of the farm bill will be back in place—a move that is expected lead to steep price increases on milk and other agricultural products.

House Democrats overwhelmingly opposed the Farm Bill due to $20 billion in cuts to the food stamp program, which was denounced as cruel at a time when more Americans than ever before are facing food security issues.  Only 24 Democrats in the House voted for the measure.  They were joined by 62 Republicans who also voted against it though for different reasons; Republicans contended the $940 billion bill was too costly.

San Diego’s Congressional delegation split down party lines, with Republicans Duncan Hunter and Darrell Issa voting for the bill, while Democrats Susan Davis, Juan Vargas, and Scott Peters voted no.

Republican leaders accused Democrats of withdrawing support under pressure from President Barack Obama, who threatened to veto the legislation due to the food stamp cuts.  “It’s just disappointing that we have seen now the Democrats putting partisanship over progress,”Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said after the vote, the Washington Post reported.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) however faulted Republicans for seeking to cut spending on the backs of the poorest Americans.  “It always is a wonderment to me that in this, the greatest country that ever existed in the history of the world, that one in four or one in fie children goes to sleep hungry at night,” she said shortly before the vote.

In contrast to the partisan divide in the House, the Senate previously passed its own version of a Farm Bill with a strong bipartisan plurality of 66 to 27 votes. The Senate version cut current spending levels by $24 billion with only minor changes in the food stampo programs, instead opting to end programs such as a $5 billion cash subsidy program for absentee farmers.  The House version had deeper cuts of $40 billion largely due to slashing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) otherwise known as Food Stamps.

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