Farm Bill Update

Posted on by Kristy Blackwood

With so much controversy surrounding reauthorization of the Farm Bill, the future for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—a key component of this legislation—is uncertain. The Farm Bill is the major food and agricultural policy bill supported by the federal government.  It has two major components:  farm subsidies and SNAP (formally known as food stamps).

In June 2013, the Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill with significant bipartisan support.  While the legislation’s $4.1 billion cuts to SNAP over 10 years was far from ideal, this decrease in funding was less drastic than the proposed House Bill that would cut $20 billion from the program.  To the relief of many, this version of the House bill never passed. While some Members of Congress found the $20 billion in cuts to SNAP to be excessive, others thought the reductions weren’t aggressive enough.

After the first version of the bill failed in the House, some Republicans opted to split the bill apart. The second House of Representatives bill that was proposed and ultimately passed in early July, consisted of just farm subsidies—the agricultural portion of the legislation—leaving out funding for SNAP altogether. Supporters of this bill said they would address the food aid portion of the legislation at a later date, likely after the upcoming summer recess.  Many worry this bill will contain even more severe cuts to SNAP.

It seems unlikely that the House’s version of the Farm Bill that does not include any funding for SNAP will become law: the Senate maintains that it will not pass this legislation and the White House has threatened to veto it.  Currently, the Senate is hoping to reach some sort of reconciliation with the House between their two versions of the Bill, and initial conversations to reach such an agreement are underway.  It is conceivable is that no agreement will be reached at all in which case the future  of SNAP is uncertain. Last year when Congress couldn’t agree on provisions and funding for the Farm bill, SNAP funding was extended for a year at its current level.

A decision is urgently needed. 1 out of 6 Americans experience food insecurity and 50% of them are children. SNAP  funding is set to lapse on September 30 of this year, and unless an  agreement is reached, millions  of people in the United States who rely on SNAP benefits will suffer.

At a time where budgets are tight for families, states, and the federal government, programmatic spending must be scrutinized—but SNAP isn’t the place to make budget cuts. In fact, besides acting as a vital safety net for 47 million Americans, SNAP infuses money into our nation’s communities and economy.  For every $5 in new benefits, $9.2 is generated in total economic activity. This makes SNAP a smart investment in the health of Americans as well as the economy of our nation.!

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