Senate fight on food stamp provision in Farm Bill

Senators overwhelmingly supported the Agriculture, Reform and Jobs Act of 2012 Thursday in a preliminary floor vote even as one lawmaker decried as "unacceptable" a provision in the bill that would cut $4.5 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, over 10 years, reports U.S. News and World Report.


There are more than 46 million people who rely on food stamps in the U.S, and it is anticipated by the Congressional Budget Office that the $4.5 billion in cuts will, on average, mean families needing assistance will receive $90 less a month for groceries.


New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand offered an amendment to the bill that would keep SNAP off the chopping block. "The farm bill is about the health of the agricultural industry; it's about the health of our families with nutritious food that is actually within reach of the children who need it," Gillibrand said on the floor Wednesday.


"In this day and age, in a country as rich as America is, it is unacceptable and should not be tolerated and should certainly not be advocated for," Gillibrand said. "These kinds of cuts, they hurt children, they hurt families, they hurt seniors that are homebound, seniors that don't know where their next meal is going to come from...They were not the cause of the financial collapse. They were not the cause of this terrible economy, but we are asking them to bear the burden."


To offset the costs of restoring $4.5 billion to SNAP, Gillibrand advocates cutting the amount the government pays to crop insurance companies from $1.3 billion to $825 million per year. Her amendment would also invest $500 million over 10 years in fresh veggies and fruit programs through SNAP and extend the power of the secretary of Agriculture so he or she can expand the emergency food assistance program in tough economic times.


Gillibrand's amendment is just one of dozens that will be offered, but her office has pledged not to give up the fight on the issue. The road ahead is long. Even if the amendment makes it into the Senate's version of the bill, the fight will continue as the House of Representatives develops its own draft of the farm bill.