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Editorial: Food fight

Every week, Americans think they’ve seen it all when it comes to the Republicans in the U.S. House — and every week they somehow top themselves.

Last week’s Farm Bill package was a doozy.

The House Republicans’ revised legislation took Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — the program that helps provide low-income families with food assistance, which had been part of the program for the past 40 years — completely out of the bill.

The argument made is that such assistance doesn’t belong in a Farm Bill. This seems a bit absurd since there’s a direct connection between the nation’s farms and the food Americans eat. And again, this change goes against what previous sessions of Congress thought for four decades.

But as we are constantly reminded, this is not your typical Congress.

With this Republican-controlled House, it’s all about slashing the budget and programs regardless of who might get hurt.

And it’s also about political payback.

The first time this Congress took up the bill, it was OK that SNAP was part of the measure. But in their slash-and-burn effort on spending, hard-line conservatives looked to make some deep cuts — $20.5 billion over the next decade. Democrats couldn’t stomach that kind of reduction and the bill was defeated. The Senate’s version proposed a more modest cut.

Of course, there’s no question that this federal food assistance program is costly. It now sits at about $80 billion in taxpayer money. But consider that 47.8 million people in the United States depend on nutritional programs ... about one in every seven Americans get help paying for groceries.

Perhaps the real issue that Congress should be considering is why so many Americans need such assistance. And, no, it’s not about largess on the part of the federal government ... it’s about jobs.

But getting to the root problem here would be hard and it’s much easier to go after programs that don’t have deep-funded lobbying behind them.

The good news is that this version of the Farm Bill is unlikely to get past the Senate, and if it should, President Obama has said he’ll veto this measure if it reaches its desk.

But once again, in a familiar scenario, legislation hangs in the balance and the clock is ticking. If an agreement isn’t passed, farm subsidies will end in September.

Americans would then see the price of milk and other dairy products rise substantially if nothing is done.

Food slated to help American families feed their children should not be held hostage.

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