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House panel set to OK cut in food stamp program

By Mary Clare Jalonick

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 06:39 a.m. HST, May 15, 2013

WASHINGTON » The House Agriculture Committee is considering a five-year farm bill that would make small cuts to the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program.

The cuts are part of massive legislation that costs almost $100 billion annually and would set policy for farm subsidies, rural programs and the food aid. The House panel started work on the legislation today, one day after the Senate Agriculture Committee approved its version.

The House bill would cut about $2.5 billion a year — or a little more than 3 percent — from the food stamp program, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The legislation would achieve the cuts partly by eliminating an eligibility category that mandates automatic food stamp benefits when people sign up for certain other benefit programs.

Last year more than 47 million people used the SNAP program, or about 1 in 7 Americans, with the cost more than doubling since 2008. The rolls rose rapidly because of the economic downturn, rising food prices and expanded eligibility under President Barack Obama's 2009 economic stimulus law.

Republicans criticized Obama in last year's presidential campaign for his expansion of the program, and many House conservatives have refused to consider a farm bill without cuts to food stamps, which make up about 80 percent of the bill's cost.

The Senate approved much smaller cuts to the program, about $400 million a year. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., will have to appease all sides as he tries to push the farm bill through for the third year in a row, balancing calls from House conservatives to cut the program with Senate Democrats who are reluctant to touch it.

"I expect it to come from all directions," Lucas said last week of the food stamp debate.

The House bill would cut around $4 billion a year from food aid and farm spending, while the Senate bill would trim roughly $2.4 billion. Those reductions include more than $600 million in yearly savings from across-the-board cuts that took effect earlier this year.

Much of the savings in the House and Senate bills comes from eliminating $5 billion in annual direct payments, a subsidy frequently criticized because it isn't tied to production or crop prices. Part of that savings would go toward the deficit reduction, but the rest of the money would create new programs and raise subsidies for some crops while business is booming in the agricultural sector.

The Senate bill would eliminate direct payments immediately, while the House bill would phase out payments to cotton farmers, who rely on the program, over the next two years.

Like the Senate bill, the House measure also includes concessions to Southern rice and peanut growers who also depend on direct payments. The bills would lower the threshold for rice and peanut subsidies to kick in when prices drop.

There are protections for other crops as well. Both bills would boost federally subsidized crop insurance and create a new program that covers smaller losses on planted crops before crop insurance kicks in, favoring Midwestern corn and soybean farmers, who use crop insurance most often.

Lucas made no apologies for broadening some farm programs.

"Let's give certainty to an industry that has been a bright spot in an otherwise dismal economy," he said today as he opened the committee meeting.

The farm bill passed the Senate last year but the House declined to take it up after conservatives in that chamber objected to the cost and insisted on higher cuts to food stamps. This year, House leaders have said they plan to put the bill on the floor.

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Bdpapa wrote:
Good! Too many freeloaders.
on May 15,2013 | 07:01AM
HAJAA1 wrote:
So your "logic" implies that only the freeloaders will get cut. You believe that? Think before you yap.
on May 15,2013 | 08:06AM
2_centz wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on May 15,2013 | 08:18AM
squidman22 wrote:
How are "they" going to "go back". America with or without food stamps is still better than where they came from.
on May 15,2013 | 11:25AM
Bdpapa wrote:
Why, are you one of those freeloaders who are mentally and physically able to work but find it easier to stay home and live off the fat? There are a lot of people that need the assistance but those that don't, hurt the system. And they are too many of them.
on May 15,2013 | 10:19AM
busterb wrote:
If it doubled because of the economic "crisis". Cut it in half now that we are on better footing. Then start nipping away at it annually.
on May 15,2013 | 07:39AM
allie wrote:
hope no needy children are left hungry by fat-cat Republicans
on May 15,2013 | 07:40AM
Bdpapa wrote:
No, by irresposible parents!
on May 15,2013 | 10:21AM
squidman22 wrote:
The United States gives away billions every year to countries that hate her. I have no problem helping to feed our own people. No one should go hungry in a country such as ours! Yes, there are people that abuse it, but the vast majority need help.
on May 15,2013 | 08:04AM
loquaciousone wrote:
By time! I'm kinda tired of watching faatsos buying sugar coated donuts and chocolate milk with the EBT card that I paid for.
on May 15,2013 | 08:46AM
kgolfinghawaii wrote:
I laugh each time someone like Allie says things like "fat-cat" republicans. Take a look at the real fat cats and almost all of them are on her side of the aisle. Amazing how blind some people are to real facts and figures not that made up junk. As for food stamps they can barely give them away otherwise why are they advertising to us to get on them? The GAO recently came out with numerous reports about duplication in giveaway programs and it "only" comes to 250 BILLION a year...that is two and half times the sequester. If only they would actually cut that garbage out. As for farm subsidies...I say CUT them all over two or three years to NOTHING. Stop with ethanol subsidies, which hugely raises the price of all farm products because all those farmers wanting in on the action of free money for growing corn instead of wheat, etc. If they can't make it on their own then so be it.
on May 15,2013 | 09:07AM
silvangold wrote:
AND das da facks .......see allie, we all 'know' where you come from! catch the nexxxxxxt plane!
on May 15,2013 | 10:27AM
HD36 wrote:
Just the beggining.
on May 15,2013 | 11:42AM
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