By Jeanie Donovan
The US Senate and House Agriculture Committees approved separate versions of a new five-year farm bill and both pieces of legislation include damaging cuts to SNAP (formerly the Food Stamp program). Both the House and Senate versions make significant reductions in federal spending and address inefficiencies in agricultural programs. However, their treatment of the SNAP program differs greatly, with the House version making dramatic changes which limit program eligibility options, eliminate state performance bonuses, and cut the SNAP Education program. Of the cuts made in the House version 60 percent come from SNAP, while the Senate cuts to SNAP account for 23 percent of the total reduction.
Floor consideration in the Senate began yesterday and Republican leaders in the House will likely bring their version to the House floor in June. Before these bills move forward, it’s important that the country is aware of the implications of the provisions included in each. Although the Senate version makes significantly smaller cuts to SNAP, any reduction in funding for the program will negatively impact low income families. Therefore, as the full Senate and House prepare to debate the farm bill, it is imperative that Members of Congress recognize the positive effects SNAP has on the most vulnerable people in our society and that the majority of voters do not support cuts to SNAP.
In a recent poll conducted on behalf of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), seven in ten of those surveyed said that cutting food stamp funding is the wrong way to reduce government spending. Further, a recent report from the Institute of Medicine found that in many cases, program benefits were inadequate to support a nutritionally adequate diet. Congress simply cannot dismiss public opinion and evidence-based research and put our neediest and most vulnerable at increased risk of hunger and malnutrition.