In Farm Bill Debate, No Clear Path for SNAP

Rachel Cooper

That’s the big question these days for anyone interested in food and nutrition policy.  The simple response is “which Farm Bill?”

Since the 1970’s federal farm and nutrition policy has been set every 5 years with the reauthorization of a new Farm Bill.  Typically the Farm Bill is where rules and funding for SNAP (food stamps) are set at the federal level, and then the program is implemented by the states.  But everything is different this year.  After failing to pass a traditional Farm Bill last month in large part because it cut $20 billion from SNAP, House Republican leaders took the unprecedented step of splitting the bill into two.  Last week with only one day of notice and after only allowing an hour of debate, the House barely passed a farm-only Farm Bill.  SNAP, a program that is a lifeline for 46 million Americans, was completely dropped from the bill.

What happens next is anyone’s guess.  The House and Senate have agreed to start conferencing about the bill, but as the Senate passed version of the Farm Bill includes the nutrition title no one knows what may happen.  The House leadership has vowed that they will quickly bring to a vote a second bill that deals with SNAP, but that’s probably a bad thing.  The big fear among anti-hunger groups is that Republican leaders will push a bill that includes the SNAP cuts contained in the Paul Ryan budget which included block-granting the program and even more massive spending cuts.

We are in uncharted territory now – there is no clear path on what will happen to SNAP.  It’s up to the public to remind our leaders that SNAP matters to Texas.  Stay tuned.

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