POLITICS
09/26/2014 10:00 am ET Updated Sep 29, 2014

Tom Cotton Says Only Farmers Can Understand The Farm Bill

WASHINGTON -- Defending his farm bill TV ad against fact-checkers who've observed its falsity, Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Thursday said journalists can't understand the farm bill because they're not farmers.

"I don't think liberal reporters who call themselves fact-checkers spent much time growing up on a farm in Yell County, growing up with Len Cotton, so I think I know a little bit more about farming than they do," Cotton told a local TV station.

In the ad, Cotton, who is challenging Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) in November's midterm election, claims that President Barack Obama "hijacked the farm bill and turned it into a food stamp bill with billions in more spending." What every fact checker has pointed out, however, is that food stamps have been part of the farm bill for decades, long before Obama came around.

Last year, Cotton and other conservative House Republicans tried to split the farm bill into two separate pieces of legislation, one for food stamps and one for farm subsidies. As Cotton now points out, the White House threatened to veto the separate bills, but neither one actually came close to the president's desk -- the House GOP's piecemeal approach had no chance of making it through the Democratic-controlled Senate. In other words, Obama wasn't running the show.

The separate farm and nutrition bills were ultimately merged with a more traditional farm bill that had passed the upper chamber, and Congress approved the measure on a bipartisan basis.

As for Cotton's claim that the bill will add billions in spending, the Congressional Budget Office has projected that the measure is instead likely to reduce food stamp spending by about 1 percent, or $8 billion, over a 10-year period. Cotton could argue that the bill adds hundreds of billions in food stamp spending relative to no nutrition assistance at all, but at no time did the House ever consider a bill that would have completely abolished the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Pryor, for his part, has been hammering Cotton for his votes against the regular farm bill. Nevertheless, Cotton currently has a slight lead in the polls, according to HuffPost Pollster.

HuffPost

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