Critical Farm Bill Admission: Food Stamp Cuts Just A Means to Get to Conference
Last week during the farm bill conference between the House and Senate, Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) 14% made a very troublesome remark:
The $40 billion figure [for House food stamp cuts] was a way to get us to conference. It wasn’t a real figure.
This kind of admission is both disturbing and revealing. It’s nothing new, however, that lawmakers produce legislation in conference committees that are more liberal and less conservative than the pieces of legislation they were putting together.
But were the Republican lawmakers touting the food stamp cuts in the food stamp only bill passed in September aware that they were participating in a ploy to just “get us to conference?” Or did they genuinely believe those cuts – insufficient though they may be – would actually remain in a deal between the House and the Senate?
Many of the Republican House farm bill conferees put out press releases and statements expressing satisfaction with the cuts that would be made to the bloated food stamp program, saying that the legislation would help reduce fraud, waste, and abuse.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) 64% stated:
This bill will help reduce spending and allow food stamps to be used in the way they were intended to be used: for those who need it most. Today’s legislation would reform the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food stamp program, and save taxpayers almost $40 billion over the next decade. SNAP does play an essential role in helping those in need, but the waste and abuse of this program originally designed to help the very poor has ballooned out-of-control.
In a press release entitled, “House Passes Remaining Portion of Farm Bill,” Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) 56% stated:
This bill puts integrity back into the food stamp program to ensure that those who need assistance the most receive it. These reforms return work incentives to the program while curbing fraud, waste and abuse and refocusing benefits on families most in need.
Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) 85% said:
H.R. 3102 includes some of the reforms Neugebauer proposed in H.R. 1510, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Improvement Act. The bill passed today saves taxpayers $40 billion over ten years through a series of targeted reforms.
“The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides critical assistance to families that have hit hard times,” Neugebauer said. “But it was never meant to support one in every seven Americans. These reforms won’t affect anyone who legitimately qualifies for assistance. They will simply allow us to better target our assistance to eligible families.”
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) 75% said:
It is critical we get the growth of this program under control by ensuring that benefits go to only those who are in need.
H.R. 3102 includes reforms totaling $40 billion in savings over the next decade, cracking down on the waste, fraud and abuse currently present in SNAP.
Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) 59% stated:
The reforms included in the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act will prevent waste, fraud, and abuse within the food stamp program and save taxpayers almost $40 billion.
Now that lawmakers have rejoined the consideration of food stamp policy and farm policy, it’s almost certain that cuts to the food stamp program will be insufficient.
The Senate’s $4 billion cuts do not do nearly enough to eliminate the waste, fraud, and abuse in the system.
Even the $40 billion in House cuts is only tantamount to a 5% cut in a program that has doubled twice in the last decade. From 2008 to 2010 alone, the number of able-bodied adults on food stamps doubled from 1.9 million to 3.9 million according to the Congressional Research Service; this was after the Obama Administration suspended the program’s work requirements.
To be clear, farm programs are in just as dire a need of reform – from the costly shallow-loss program to the sharp increase in the cost of crop insurance.
Conservatives have long argued that it is essential for food stamp programs and the farm bill programs to be considered separately if they are ever to be sufficiently reformed, so that taxpayers and consumers are no longer harmed.
Let’s see if lawmakers live up to their promises of reform or let taxpayers and consumers down yet again.