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Food Assistance Benefits On The Chopping Block

In an effort to trim the federal budget, House Republicans have voted to cut $33 billion from food assistance programs over the next decade.

A US dollar bill being cut in half by a pair of scissors.

Photo: Images_Of_Money (Flickr)

Democrats and Republicans disagree over whether farmer subsidies or nutrition assistance should be the target of Agriculture budget cuts.

The House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture voted on Wednesday to cut food assistance programs by $33 billion over the next ten years.

The measure is not expected to survive in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Farm Subsidies Vs. Food Benefits

Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) drafted a budget plan that was passed by the House of Representatives on March 29 and again on April 17.

It directed six committees to find $261 billion in savings over the next ten years, with much of the fiscal cutting power bestowed upon the Committee on Agriculture.

While Ryan anticipated savings would come from rolling back controversial farm subsidies and crop insurance, the committee took aim at food assistance instead.

SNAP Cuts

The committee’s proposal seeks to tighten qualifications for enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), making some 3 million current food stamps recipients ineligible for the service.

Monthly benefits for a family of four would be also reduced by almost $60 on average — a negation of increases enacted in 2008 as part of President Obama’s economic stimulus plan.

Rhetorical Volleys

Democrats bristled at the Republicans’ preference for pushing domestic spending cuts over defense cuts, calculated tax increases or changes to the subsidy program.

“We’d rather pay farmers millions of dollars not to grow crops than to feed children,” said Rep. Marchia Fudge (D-WI).

Agriculture panel chairman Frank Lukas (R-OK) countered that a more streamlined system will strengthen the program. “When families fall on hard times, SNAP is a valuable resource that helps ensure no one goes hungry,” he said. “But in the current economic environment we need to ensure that SNAP benefits are going to those families that truly need support.”

Finger Pointing And Moving Forward

Republicans have pointed out that the Democrats targeted food assistance programs in 2010 to pay for other legislation.

President Obama has sought to reverse those cuts in his proposed budget for 2013.

Read More:

  • US House Panel Okays $33 Bln In Food Stamps (Reuters)
  • Food Stamps, Federal Pensions Face GOP Cuts (Associated Press)
  • Fight Ahead Over Food Stamps (KGFO)
Sarah Gordon

Sarah Gordon has been interested in food ethics since she was 15, learned about industrial slaughter, and launched into 10 years of vegetarianism. These days, she strives to be a conscientious omnivore. Now a PhD candidate in folklore, her research has caused her to spend a lot of time in the remote Canadian sub-arctic, where the lake trout (sustainably harvested) tastes amazing.

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