CHN: Farm Bill with SNAP Cuts Nearing Votes
The Farm Bill Conference agreement, which would reconcile the differences between the Senate- and House-passed bills and reportedly contains $8.6 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program, is nearing floor votes. Advocates are concerned about a cut that would result from significantly restricting the coordination of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) with SNAP. The provision disallowing SNAP-eligible households with only a nominal LIHEAP payment from receiving the standard deduction allowance for shelter and utilities would decrease the SNAP benefit of affected recipients by about $90 per month. The provision would lower SNAP benefits for approximately 850,000 recipients.
The SNAP program has proven to be one of the strongest anti-poverty and pro-economic growth programs assisting families and communities. In 2012, SNAP kept nearly 5 million people, including 2.2 million children, out of poverty and reduced child poverty by three percentage points. The large majority of SNAP participants are children, seniors, or people with disabilities, and nearly one million SNAP recipients are veterans. According to Moody’s Analytics and the U.S. Department of Agriculture every $1 of SNAP benefits generates approximately $1.73 to $1.79 in economic benefits, and each $1 billion in SNAP cuts eliminates 13,718 jobs.
At the end of the first session of the 113th Congress in December, House and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairs and Ranking Members, the lead Farm Bill negotiators, appeared poised to present their compromise to the Conference Committee in early January. The process, however, had reportedly stalled over the issue of dairy price supports. The impasse involved competing proposals to prevent milk prices to dairy farmers from plummeting and the cost of milk for consumers from escalating. Without a new farm bill by the end of January, provisions dealing with dairy price supports are set to revert back to those set in the 1949 farm law (PL 81-439), significantly increasing the price of milk and other dairy products. With the January deadline looming, the dairy issue seems to be resolved.
On December 12, prior to adjourning for the year, the House passed a 30-day farm bill extension (H.R. 3695) as a backstop if a new bill does not pass in January. Senate leaders have resisted passing an extension lest it be an incentive to delay action on a new farm bill. If the bill finally does make it to final passage with the SNAP cuts included, it will be the second major cut in the past few months, following a November reduction in the average value of SNAP from $1,50 to $1.40 per meal.