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Food Stamp Fate Murky In 2018 Farm Bill

As Congress prepares to reauthorize the federal farm bill later this year, watchdogs and voters are bracing for possible cuts to the SNAP program.

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The Chopping Block

Late last year House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters that in 2018 he hoped to make aggressive “entitlement reforms.”

That agenda would likely includes SNAP, which takes up about 80 percent of the farm bill’s $100 billion funding.

The program gives an average of 40 million Americans help to buy food every month.

Spending for SNAP fluctuates depending on need, like other entitlements such as disability benefits, social security and Medicaid, a program has long been eyed for cuts.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated publicly last year that he would not expect to see entitlement cuts on the agenda this year.

Cuts from a tax code overhaul last year have fattened the federal deficit, and lawmakers are looking for ways to roll back spending to pay for those cuts.

Politco reported that House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady told a small group of conservatives in DC that welfare “reform” would indeed be on the agenda for the 2019 budget.

The USDA announced in early December that it would give states more local control over SNAP to “promote self-sufficiency, integrity in the program, and better customer service.”

The announcement followed a meeting between the Secretaries’ Innovation Group, a group of conservative officials who run state-level social programs, and the House Ways and Means Committee.

The farm bill is just one of the ways that lawmakers could cut food stamp funding. Trump’s proposed budget for 2018 includes $193 billion in cuts to SNAP over the next ten years.

Trump Speaks to Farmers

Meanwhile, President Trump told the American Farm Bureau Federation during an annual conference in Tennessee on Monday that he supports crop insurance, a departure from previous statements indicating he wanted to cut back those programs.

Trump’s appearance marked the first time in 25 years that a president has attended.

He also touted cuts in the recent tax overhaul that would help family farmers, though as The New York Times reported, the bill scaled back individual tax breaks such as mortgage interest deductions that could hit small scale farmers hard.

The president told the meeting that due to cuts farmers would be spared “deeply unfair” estate tax, but the Tax Policy Center said the number of affected small businesses and farms is only around 80 this year.

The Times also reported that economists at the USDA have suggested tax changes could lower output from farms down the road, and raise taxes for the smallest farms.

The farm community has cheered the president’s deregulatory agenda, especially a move to rescind tighter regulations on water pollution.

At the AFBF meeting, the group also discussed its 2018 legislative agenda, which included more support for cotton farmers, an insurance safety net for dairy farmers, trade protections for American agricultural commodities, changes to NAFTA that would allow US dairy farmers access to Canadian markets, and a ban on “non-GMO” labels for products that do not have GMO alternatives.

Read More

  • Behind Trump’s Plan to Target The Federal Safety Net (Politico)
  • McConnell Says No to Ryan’s Dream of Cutting Entitlements in 2018 (New York Magazine)
  • Trump Overstates Size of Tax Cuts in Speech to Farmers (New York Times)
  • Farm Bureau Re-elects President Zippy Duvall, Sets Agenda For 2018 (Ag Week)
Chad Bouchard

Chad Bouchard is a veteran reporter and WFIU alum who has covered wild and wooly beats from Indonesia to Capitol Hill. His radio work has aired on NPR, PRI and Voice of America, and his writing has appeared in The Sunday Telegraph and Scientific American’s health magazine, Lives. He has also spent a lifetime gardening, foraging and eating weird stuff.

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