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SNAP benefits outline partisan chasm in Farm Bill

Screen grab from the House Agriculture Committee YouTube page Congressman Glenn Thompson, chair of the House Agriculture Committee, speaks during a markup for the House version of the Farm Bill held last week.

The House version of the Farm Bill – the Farm Food and National Security Act of 2024 – is over 900 pages long.

It touches many, many areas of American life and sets priorities for areas from commodities, conservation, and nutrition to rural development, forestry and energy.

It’s clear that SNAP – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the food stamp program – will be a hurdle to getting the bill over the finish line by an end-of-September deadline.

The House Agriculture Committee held a markup for the bill last week prior to passing it out of the committee.

That committee is charged by Congressman Glenn Thompson, whose 15th Congressional District includes Warren County.

“This bill strengthens the rural economy across every region,” Thompson said at the outset of that hearing. “I firmly believe the legislation before us restores a robust rural economy and bolsters every facet of American agriculture.”

The SNAP issue featured prominently at the outset of the hearing.

According to the USDA, SNAP benefits are “updated each year based on the cost of the Thrifty Food plan in June and take effect on Oct. 2. The Thrifty Food Plan is the cost of groceries needed to provide a healthy, budget-conscious diet for a family of four.”

Thompson said that updates to the Thrifty Food Plan have been budget neutral for over 40 years until the Biden Administration implemented changes “resulting in a $256 billion addition to the Farm Bill baseline.”

He said that the administration claimed the process was science-based and transparent but called it a “rushed process devoid of thoroughness and filled with politics.”

As a result, Thompson said the GOP proposal in this bill is a “balanced” option allowing Congress to reassert authority.

He said that SNAP benefits in the bill will see a cost of living adjustment and will respond to inflation moving forward, while correcting a “draconian policy” to allow individuals with felony drug convictions to be eligible for SNAP benefits.

“Republicans are holding the USDA and states who administer SNAP accountable to the American taxpayer,” Thompson added.

That sentiment was not shared by the ranking Democratic member of the committee, David Scott, who said the “terrible bill” hurts farmers and families.

“This Farm Bill makes the largest financial cut to SNAP in 30 years and they’re doing it at a time of greatest need for this SNAP program to serve our American people,” Scott said.

He cited a $30 billion cut in changes to the Thrifty Food Plan.

“This means that this legislation before us today ensures that $30 billion in SNAP benefits will not flow to low income households with children, to our senior citizens, our American people with disabilities, our courageous veterans… our working parents – our caretakers who need the help the most with getting good. That is a fact.”

He called the SNAP impact enough reason “to vote against this terrible bill.”

Scott pointed out that the bill won’t become law as the Senate and Biden Administration will not accept it.” Even still, he called it a step that “begins the journey toward passing a Farm Bill.”

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