House Panel Approves Farm Bill With Food Stamp Cuts

May 16, 2013 01:40 PM EDT | By Staff Reporter

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The House and Senate Agriculture Committees on Wednesday approved a sweeping farm bill that would trim the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program.

The two chambers are far apart on how much the $80 billion-a-year program should be cut, however - reflecting a deep ideological and at times emotional divide on the role of government in helping the poor, according to the Associated Press.

Resolving those differences will be key to passage of the massive five-year farm bill that lawmakers are attempting to push through for the third year in a row. The far-reaching bill costs almost $100 billion annually over five years and would set policy for farm subsidies, rural programs and food aid.

The House bill would cut about $2.5 billion a year - or a little more than 3 percent - from the domestic food aid program, which is used by 1 in 7 Americans. The committee rejected a Democratic amendment to strike the cuts 27-17, keeping them in the bill.

Republicans argued that the cut is small relative to the size of the program, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and that people who qualify for the aid could still sign up for it, they just wouldn't be automatically enrolled. They defended the cuts after Rep. Juan Vargas, D-Calif., quoted the Book of Matthew in opposing them: "When I was hungry you gave me food. When I was thirsty, you gave me drink."

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