Congress About to Reconsider Food Stamps, but Will Results Be Any Better?

Print Share on LinkedIn More



July 9, 2013; Roll Call


The farm bill is alive again, but the provisions that would have devastated the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are gone. Remember the killer language on food stamps? The original bill pushed by House Republicans would have cut $20.5 billion from the food stamp program over 10 years. That huge budget cut wasn’t enough to drive enough Democrats off from supporting the bill, but a pile of additional punitive measures convinced some Democrats to bolt—and convinced some Republicans that the bill wasn’t punitive enough.

Typically, the farm bill has included SNAP, which accounts for 80 percent of the farm bill budget authority ($743.9 billion of the estimated $972.3 billion cost of the bill). Many Republicans view SNAP as a program to benefit urban areas that’s included in the farm bill in part to get urban support for the assortment of farm subsidies. Now it appears that House Republicans, such as Agriculture Chairman Frank D. Lucas and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, have supported divorcing the food stamp provisions from the rest of the farm bill.

Human service nonprofits were understandably distressed by the food stamp provisions in the original bill. Is the farm bill split a better idea?

The split will allow Congress to specifically aim at farm subsidies which, some might be surprised to learn, have their critics among conservatives as well as Democrats. Without SNAP, Republicans who favor big subsidies for agriculture might not be able to attract necessary Democratic votes to offset the opposition of Republican free-market opponents.

The likely Republican House treatment of the SNAP provisions in separate legislation might be no less devastating than its strategy in the pre-divorce bill. That would lose Democratic support for a food stamp deal. The result could be that the split farm bill might fail on both sides because of its inability to attract support from across the aisle. As a result, there is an emerging movement by agricultural groups telling House Speaker John Boehner to reject the split and maintain a unified farm bill.

As it was put by the Kansas City Star, in voting for two bills or one unified bill, “House Republicans will have to explain why they support billions in taxpayer subsidies for farmers, including themselves and some relatives, while cutting billions in subsidies for the poor.” The Star concludes, “A farm-subsidy bill without food stamps has zero chance of passing the Senate. A stand-alone bill that dramatically cuts food stamps also has no chance of passing in the Senate.” If they are concerned about hunger and poverty, human services nonprofits will have their work cut out for themselves in trying to get a decent food stamp bill passed that doesn’t leave millions without this crucial subsidy.—Rick Cohen

  • lisa croft

    Is the govenment really talking about taking foods stamps away? Do they understand just how many people go hungry every day in this country? If they take food stamps away they might as well get ready to having people in jail for stealin food and get ready to attend a lot of funerals. Because if people can’t afford to eat there will be deaths. Also people will be killing people for there bags of food. This country is already having enough trouble without making it harder to survive. Minimum wage is hard enought to stretch to cover the bills like rent and gas for your car and utilities. In 1983 minimum was a little over 3 dollare since then it has only gone up 4 dollars while everything else has gone up 100 do they expect poeple to live? Not everyone has hunderds of thousands of dollars in the bankk. They don’t have to worry that if they buy their child a much needed pair of shoes this week will I be able to pay the electric bill.maybe some of them should give some of there fat cat salary to help this county out.

  • Broderick

    Why is it that u allways take from the have not’s
    Try cutting from your budget like all tne vehicle”s
    Gold toilet seats And office remodeling the list could
    Go on so cut some of your spending and leave the have
    Nots alone. Why do you never see our leaders giving back??
    They eat better than most and still stealing our bread

    P.s stop stealing