Boswell, Latham Differ on How to Feed Hungry Iowans

An election-year fight is brewing over proposed cuts to the Farm Bill to limit food-stamp eligibility, and candidates in Iowa’s 3rd District differ on the best way to proceed.

Two longtime U.S. Congressmen made their cases for re-election to Iowa's 3rd District Monday, offering contrasting views on how to feed the nation’s hungry.

Current 3rd District incumbent U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell is locked in a tight re-election campaign against U.S. Rep. Tom Latham, who currently represents Iowa’s old 4th District. Redistricting put Latham in the same district as another Iowa Republican congressman, 5th District U.S. Rep. Steve King, so Latham moved to the 3rd District to challenge Boswell.

Both Latham and Boswell are popular, both have an agricultural background, and both have a long tenure in Congress. The race is almost sure to be contentious. It’s one of only two in the country in which redistricting pits a pair of incumbents against one another.

What do you think about a Farm Bill amendment that would cut food stamp benefits by $16 billion? Tell us below in comments.

Young professionals' groups with the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerc and the Urbandale Commerce were joined by Homebuilders of Iowa in sponsoring the forum, which was held at the West Des Moines Sheraton.

One of the sharpest disagreements of the morning came over proposed cuts to the Farm Bill that Sherrie Taha of Des Moines said would make it more difficult for hungry Iowans – many of them in single-parent households headed by women, she said – to find enough to eat. Taha said that of the 20 percent of Iowans who are living at 150 percent of poverty guidelines, 70 percent are female heads of households.

House Republicans want to cut nearly $16 billion over 10 years – $2 billion more than for farm subsidies and nearly half of all savings in the bill, Reuters reported – mostly by changing eligibility rules. If the cuts are enacted, they would be the largest since 1996 when $27 billion in deficit-reduction measures were enacted.

The GOP wants to restrict enrollment among people with high child-care and housing expenses whose incomes are higher than the poverty line. Democrats argue the cuts would force 3 million out of the program, mostly America’s working poor and elderly.

“How can you justify half of the cuts occurring in the Farm Bill that are attributed to food stamps when the need is so dramatic?” Taha drilled Latham. “How can you justify a cap of $1 million for individual farmers, rather than a quarter of a million dollars, when we have a need for something as basic as daily bread?”

Latham said he doesn’t want to do away with the SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program more commonly known as the food-stamp program. Some 46 million Americans currently receive SNAP benefits. Latham said that figure is artificially high because enrollment changes made as part of President Obama’s economic stimulus bill automatically included all Americans who are receiving Medicaid benefits.

About 80 percent of 5-year, $491 billion Farm Bill appropriations are for SNAP benefits and Latham said he wants to “get back to pre-stimulus eligibility.”

“No one is saying ‘do away with it,’” Latham said. “We have got to make sure a safety net is available to everyone. There are real needs like this, but the fact is that dramatic increases in eligibility … are not sustainable.”

Boswell, who serves on the House Agriculture Committee, said Congress should think carefully before removing the safety net. He voted for the Farm Bill after backing an ultimately unsuccessful effort to restore $16 million in cuts to the food stamp program, money he said would ultimately benefit farmers because that food stamp assistance  is used to purchase food produced by farmers, he said.

“That’s not resolved,” Boswell said. “We may want to think more about that.”

Troy Murphy July 17, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Since the bottom 90 percent pay less than 18 percent of their income in taxes. Short term capital gains are taxed at the same rate as ordinary income only long term capital gains is taxed at a lower rate which is 15% I assume this is what you are talking about. So even if the rich derive most of their income from long term capital gains they are at worst paying the same tax rate as you or I. I still don't see how that qualifies as not paying their fair share. As far as being lucky enough to be rich I have noticed that wealth in the US is quite fluid and if you are willing to take chances and work hard luck only plays a minimal role, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates were not born rich, besides the only fair tax is a flat tax. The rich pay more actual dollars than you or I. Why should they pay a higher percentage as well? It is unfair to punish one person because he was successful, it is virtually stealing to charge a different rate to one group over another.
nathan hofstadter July 18, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Ok so I'm talking to a republican shrill. The facts back me up not you. Over the last 30 years the wealth has been redistributed to the wealthy not the poor or middle class. But go ahead and raise the rate on the poor and middle class. Apparently you hats not only the poor but also the middle class. Your last two sentences are hilarious btw.
Troy Murphy July 18, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Nah you are talking to a business owner who pays those taxes and employs people. I don't see any reason to raise taxes, just stop spending. I see no reason to grow the federal government at the rate it has grown over the past 4 years. What is really sad in America is that somehow people think they are entitled to take from those who earned it, to line their own pocket. Look to Greece if you want to see what happens when we become an entitlement state. You realize we didn't even have an permanent income tax until 1913. My beliefs are Libertarian not Republican, but hey see what happens when you tax small businesses like mine, I am used to living at a certain level and when taxes go up I work harder and either lay someone off or I just don't hire. Which is why you are seeing unemployment basically not moving, small businesses are not hiring, because of the uncertainties about taxes and regulations.
nathan hofstadter July 18, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Fail at deflection. You are going to have to try and come up with an origanal idea. But you cant because you know I'm right. Just another republic defending redistribution to the rich. Of course if you can lie about the last three decades I'm all ears. And am armed with facts. Can you read a graph?
Troy Murphy July 18, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Sorry but the poverty rate has basically remained constant for the last 50 years ranging as high as 15% and as low as 12%. Of course poverty as defined in the US has no relationship to real poverty like that found in China or India. How do you define redistribution to the rich when it was their money to begin with? Just because you think it is yours doesn't make it so. It sure as heck doesn't belong to the government.


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