Food assistance has been connected to farm policy since the very first farm bill passed in 1933. The Agriculture & Consumer Protection Act of was the first time food assistance was included in the farm bill.
For decades, therefore, when a farm bill passes Congress, it does so because of the support of farm-state lawmakers, but also because of the support of lawmakers who are primarily interested in hunger relief. This is part of the reason why a bill commonly known as the “farm bill” often doesn’t even have the word “farm” in its title but very often has the word “food.”
“The popular notion as to why food assistance programs are included in the farm bill is that they primarily benefit urban populations and in order to gain enough political support for commodity programs the farm bill must contain both,” according to a 2014 study on the economics of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or “SNAP,” formerly known as food stamps) by Todd Kuethe and Jonathan Coppess of the University of Illinois Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. In fact, the study pointed out, rural areas also benefit from SNAP.
However, the idea that it takes urban votes to pass the farm bill is “supported by the history of U.S. farm policy,” the study said.