House Strips SNAP From Farm Bill in Unprecedented Move

July 11, 2013 at 10:59 am

7/12/13 Note:  We have updated this post to reflect legislative action.

For several decades, legislation to reauthorize farm programs and SNAP (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) have moved together.  Now, the House Republican leadership has split the bills, passing a stand-alone farm bill now and planning to move a separate SNAP bill later.

The reason is clear.  Even though the farm bill the House defeated a few weeks ago contained more than $20 billion in SNAP cuts (nearly all of them in food assistance benefits) as well as an unprecedented measure allowing states to cut families off SNAP if a parent wants to work but can’t find a job and letting state politicians take half of the resulting savings and use them for any purpose, that wasn’t enough for many of the most conservative House Republicans.  So the House leadership has dropped the SNAP provisions and plans to come back later with a still harsher SNAP bill designed to pass solely with Republican votes.

This turn of events is deeply disturbing:

  • Until now, farm/SNAP legislation has been one of the few remaining areas of bipartisan legislative activity.  The House Republicans’ scorched-earth policy with respect to SNAP is ending that, turning farm and SNAP legislation into a bitter partisan battleground on the House floor.
  • This could well lead to enactment of farm-only legislation, with SNAP being placed in a more tenuous position when its authorization expires on September 30.  (The House very likely will later pass a severe SNAP-only authorization bill to which the Senate may not respond.)  What would happen then is unclear, with a decided risk of Republican threats and actions to short-change SNAP’s appropriation on the grounds that the program hasn’t been reauthorized.
  • Tens of millions of Americans (including many who work for low wages) live in poverty, struggle to make ends meet, and often suffer significant hardships, but they can at least get basic nutritional assistance through SNAP.  They ought not to be pawns in political maneuvers, and Congress should not jeopardize their chances of getting enough food to eat.

Splitting the farm bill and paving the way for the House to pass a more draconian SNAP-only bill in coming weeks would be the latest demonstration of how dysfunctional the House is becoming.

Congress should go back to producing legislation that covers agriculture and nutrition together and can pass both chambers because it is bipartisan and moderate, unlike yesterday’s House action and the farm bill the House defeated in late June, not partisan and extreme.

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Robert Greenstein

Greenstein is the founder and President of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. You can follow him on Twitter @GreensteinCBPP.

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6 Comments Add Yours ↓

Comments are listed in reverse chronological order.

  1. 1

    It is astounding that allegedly intelligent politicians can be so deficient in informed judgment, or deceived to the point of delusion, that their well-meaning statements inadvertently misinform their audience.

  2. 2

    Nice Info. We’ve highlighted some of the safety net’s successes this week, including the positive effects of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).

  3. Patty Ray #

    As a advocate for vulnerable populations, working in client homes and seeing their struggles, it is troubling to read of the actions taken in the House and equally disturbing to hear the lack of concern for our citizens (children and seniors particularly) who are hungry. As per 2011 statistics, Tennessee is now 2nd in the nation for hunger among seniors. What a shame and disgrace for a nation and a state such as ours to have our seniors, who have given so much, go to bed hungry at night or do with out medicine in order to buy food. And I wonder how many congressmen could look into the face of a child who was hungry and not care. I agree with Hubert Humphrey “The way we treat our children in the dawn of their lives and the way we treat our elderly in the twilight of their lives is a measure of the quality of a nation.” And as for abuse of the program. With everyone’s best effort, there has always been those who abuse programs. Abuse occurs at every level. We must not assume that the actions of a few reflect that of everyone.

  4. Sue Ellen Holmstrand #

    I completely disagree with your argument that SNAP should be part of the Agriculture Bill. The Food Stamp program was created to help both farmers and hungry people. But SNAP has evolved into a Social Service entity rife with abuse. And the farm subsidy program needs reforming on its own to stop farmers from growing for the subsidy instead of the market need. Put SNAP into a Social Services program, put the Forest Service under the Interior Department, and have all farmers, not just the large commodity growers, have equal input as to how to allow farmers to grow safe and healthy crops that everyone can afford. Sue Ellen Holmstrand, BS Agriculture, UC Davis

    • Steven Baker #

      “But SNAP has evolved into a Social Service entity rife with abuse.”

      That’s simply not true and completely defeats the rest of any argument you can make. That’s just the old GOP saw, the welfare queen on food stamps driving a Cadillac. Since “rife” means prevalent to an increasing degree and 47 Million poor receive SNAP benefits, you should be able to produce 0.01% as examples of abuse right? That’s only 4700 examples, should be easy for a program that’s “rife” with abuse.

      • Sue Ellen Holmstrand #

        Yes–it is many months later–but I just was informed of your reply to my comment. When I say the SNAP program is “rife with abuse” I am not talking about “welfare queens”. I am talking about a system where food corporations such as PepsiCo and Frito-Lay, etc., benefit hugely with the government supplied money to purchase their very unhealthy product. Further, there are abuses in communities where SNAP benefits are used for highly marked up (and probably not fresh) food from convenience stores due to the lack of a decent market. And while it is bothersome for me to be in line behind someone who is purchasing steak and salmon using SNAP while I purchase ramen noodles, at least the steak and fish is better than soda and chips. When cities and States try to limit purchases of clearly unhealthy “foods”, do you think it is SNAP recipients who pony up the millions of dollars to fight regulations? SNAP needs to be administered by an agency who looks to help the poor, not support an agri-business community who only looks at profits.

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