House Ag Committee: Cut Food Stamps, not Farm Aid

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There has long been rare leftright agreement in Washington that multi-billion dollar federal farm subsidies are generally wasteful, mostly benefit agribusinesses, and should be slashed or eliminated. You’d think this would represent low-hanging fruit for Republican budget hawks looking to make quick cuts in federal spending. But the farm lobby and members of Congress representing rural states wield mighty power in Washington. So it’s little surprise to see Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee urging Budget Chairman Paul Ryan not to make substantial cuts to federal farm programs.

But this time there’s a twist: Lest those Republicans appear profligate, they have proposed one area for cuts–food stamps:

The only program the letter offers as a possible area for belt-tightening is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food stamp program. The panel said it might not continue the boost in monthly benefits for SNAP participants when they expire Nov. 1, 2013. SNAP, which accounts for nearly three-quarters of the Agriculture Department’s budget, got an across-the-board increase in monthly benefits under the 2009 stimulus (PL 111-5).

The temporary increase was slated to end fiscal 2018, but Congress already has tapped $14.4 billion of that increase to aid states with Medicaid, to help school districts avoid teacher layoffs, and to reauthorize and expand federal child-nutrition programs. As a result, the SNAP benefits increases will expire earlier than originally scheduled.