Rep. Louie Gohmert (Credit: Congressional Quarterly/Scott J. Ferrell/Newscom)

Rep. Louie Gohmert (Credit: Congressional Quarterly/Scott J. Ferrell/Newscom)

As negotiations continue over the farm bill, conservative members of Congress voiced their commitment to keeping agriculture programs separate from food stamps.

“This House made the biggest reform that we could’ve hoped for in this Congress, and that was when we separated out the food stamps from the farm bill,” Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said Wednesday at Conversations with Conservatives on Capitol Hill.

The House voted on two separate bills last summer, one related to agriculture programs and the other pertaining to food stamps. The bills were put back together again into one bill when the legislation was sent to conference where the House and Senate work out differences between their farm bills. However, the House did authorize food stamps for three years and farm programs for five years, meaning that at least in the future these programs will be considered separately.

The Heritage Foundation has long contended separating the farm components from the food stamp portions of the bill is critical for real and meaningful reform.

Heritage Research Fellow Daren Bakst explained, “The bill has historically combined food stamps with agricultural programs because legislators who would otherwise seek reform stay quiet in order to maintain the status quo of their favored program.”

Gohmert said separate consideration would help to address “the redundancy and the fraud, waste, and abuse” within the food stamp program. He noted that Congress should “deal with the farm bill as a farm bill and not 80 percent of it being a public assistance bill.”

Food stamps currently make up roughly 80 percent of the funding allocated in both the House and Senate farm bills. The House and Senate are currently working out differences between their bills, both of which will cost taxpayers close to $1 trillion dollars. The House and Senate disagree on some issues, including cuts to food stamps.

The House bill would cut food stamps by about $39 billion dollars, a modest 5 percent reduction, while the Senate would cut about $4 billion, which amounts to a one-half of 1 percent reduction. To put the cuts in perspective, if the House’s minor cuts were adopted, annual food stamp spending would still be nearly double 2008 levels.

Representative Steve King (R-IA), a member of the conference committee negotiating the bill, said conservatives would be disappointed with a deal currently being discussed related to food-stamp spending.