The House is about to begin debating this year’s farm bill, as House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) has scheduled a mark up on May 15. Ahead of the negotiations, Lucas has already indicated that he is planning steep cuts in spending, mostly focused on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, reports Capital Press:
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., told Capital Press on April 26 that he is planning a farm bill that will cut $38 billion in spending over 10 years, with $20 billion coming from the food stamps account and $18 billion from the rest of the bill.
Those cuts would be $3 billion more than those included in a farm bill passed by the committee last year.
In fact, the bill passed last year by the committee included $16.5 billion in cuts to SNAP, which was predicted to end benefits for 2 to 3 million people. Lucas’s proposal would cut SNAP even more severely.
Unlike many other social safety net programs, SNAP easily expands and contracts in response to increased need, and therefore has been very responsive to the economic downturn. It is also a crucial tool in fighting poverty: In 2011, the program kept roughly 4.7 million people out of poverty, including 2.1 million children, and cut the number of children living in extreme poverty in half. Food stamps also lead to better health and economic outcomes for beneficiaries. They can reduce food insecurity among high-risk children by 20 percent and improve their health by 35 percent.
Yet the benefits are already meager. The average recipient receives about $133 a month, or about $1.48 a meal. Rather than looking for cuts in the food stamp program, perhaps lawmakers could instead focus on crop subsidies that fuel the junk food industry.