HomeTop StoriesA U.S. House of Representatives panel debates nutrition benefit changes in GOP...

A U.S. House of Representatives panel debates nutrition benefit changes in GOP farm bill proposal

On December 4, 2019, a sign showing acceptance of electronic benefits cards used by state welfare departments to distribute benefits is displayed at a grocery store in Oakland, California. Changes to the formula that sets funding levels for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are a major point of contention in the 2024 farm bill proposed by U.S. House Republicans. (Justin Sullivan | Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Democrats and Republicans on the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee clashed late Thursday over funding for food and nutrition programs as part of Republicans’ sweeping proposal for the new five-year farm bill.

The committee’s $1.5 trillion omnibus farm bill would set policy and funding levels for agriculture and conservation programs over the next five years, as well as food and nutrition programs for families in need.

House Agriculture Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson, a Republican from Pennsylvania, introduced the long-awaited bill last week and his panel undertook a marathon increase Thursday. The committee is expected to vote on a series of amendments and the bill around midnight Eastern.

The bill is tied to disagreements between Democrats and Republicans over a funding calculation that would place limits on the formula that calculates benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, the food assistance program formerly called food stamps.

Democrats said Thursday that would lead to cuts to SNAP and destroy any future of bipartisan support for the farm bill, which would be needed to pass the Senate.

“There is absolutely no way you’re going to get a farm bill unless we take care of this issue, which is the heart of the matter,” Rep. David Scott of Georgia, the top Democrat on the committee, said of SNAP funding. mechanism.

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As the House committee debated the bill, Michigan Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow said in an interview Thursday that the legislation has no chance in the Senate.

“It tears apart the agriculture and food coalition and does not have the votes to vote on it in the House of Representatives. And certainly not in the Senate,” Stabenow said States Newsroom.

Nutrition programs are responsible for the majority of farm bill expenditures. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 41 million people take advantage of SNAP benefits.

Dems pan changes to SNAP funding

Thompson’s bill would limit future updates to the Thrifty Food Plan, the formula that calculates SNAP benefits. This would result in cuts of nearly $30 billion over 10 years, based on the Congressional Budget Office’s estimates, lawmakers say.

Democrats say this would significantly reduce the purchasing power of food for needy Americans.

“Any effort that takes the food of hardworking families off the table takes my vote off the table,” said Rep. Gabe Vasquez, a New Mexico Democrat.

“If we want a farm bill that can be passed into law with the bipartisan levels necessary to get out of this committee, it is imperative that we go back to the negotiating table and remove this provision,” said Colorado Democrat Yadira Caraveo.

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Democrat Jahana Hayes of Connecticut offered an amendment that would have made the changes to the program. But after more than two hours of passionate debate on the issue Thursday evening, the amendment failed on a party-line vote, 25-29.

“It is unfathomable that we are once again attacking the most vulnerable in this country, the hungry,” Hayes told the committee. “There are parts of the bill that are promising, but this should not be at the expense of the most vulnerable.”

Republicans defend new formula

The underlying problem is the cost projections for the farm bill for the next ten years. The farm bill must remain budget neutral, so lawmakers must fit their proposals into a baseline of how much the government would spend if the current farm law were extended.

Republicans insist the SNAP changes are a cost reduction that would not actually reduce food assistance for needy families. The change would not take effect until 2027 and would not immediately reduce current SNAP levels. Instead, it would freeze the list of products that families can buy with their benefits and the values ​​they are allowed to purchase, barring increases due to inflation.

As such, the limits would make it more difficult for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to add new items to SNAP or provide more support for certain categories, as the Biden administration did in 2021 when it increased benefits for fruits and vegetables.

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New York Republican Mark Molinaro said it is “unfair” to describe the changes as a reduction in SNAP benefits, and South Dakota Republican Dusty Johnson said benefits on SNAP electronic benefit cards would not decrease.

But Democrats pointed to CBO cost estimates that predict a reduction in federal spending for SNAP if the bill becomes law.

“Let’s not try to believe that this isn’t a big deal, it’s a huge deal… we have to do better,” said Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern.

California Democrat Salud Carbajal said Republicans were “trying to go in all directions.”

“If the commission considers it paid, then that’s money you’re taking away from hungry families,” Carbaja said.

The farm bill funds programs for twelve titles over five years. The massive bill combines support for agricultural producers, energy and conservation programs on farmland, and food and nutrition programs for families in need.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack expressed concern this week that the Republican proposal’s alignment with SNAP benefits threatened that coalition.

The Republican bill would increase farm “safety net” payments for some staple crops, expand eligibility for disaster relief and increase funding for specialty crops, organic farmers and dairy farmers.

This is expected to cost $1.5 trillion over ten years. A title-by-title summary of the 942-page bill can be found here.

Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.

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The U.S. House Post Panel on Changes to Nutrition Benefits in GOP Farm Bill Proposal first appeared on West Virginia Watch.

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