House Republicans attempt to block grant food stamps, other nutrition assistance programs

Caroline May | Reporter

With assistance programs, like food stamps, seeing hefty increases in participation, House Republicans introduced legislation Friday to combine six nutrition assistance programs in the 2012 Senate-passed Farm Bill into a single block grant to states.

Nutrition assistance constitutes 80 percent of the spending in the nearly trillion dollar Farm Bill.

Republican Study Committee members Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp, Georgia Rep. Paul Broun, and Ohio Rep. Steve Chabot, and the chairman of the RSC Jim Jordan of Ohio introduced the legislation, arguing that with a national debt over $16 trillion and a 297 percent increase in food stamp spending over the last decade alone block grants are a solution to the entitlement explosion.

“In block granting nutrition assistance, as this legislation does, states will not only be able to set the criteria as they see fit, but will be held accountable for the decisions they make,” the four said in a statement. “By putting control of the program in the hands of those closest to the taxpayers and the people utilizing the benefits, the American people will have greater opportunity to reward good leadership and punish bad decision-making.”

If passed, the legislation would block grant Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (a food stamp program), The Emergency Food Assistance Program, Community Food Projects, Commodity Supplemental Food Program, Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program — returning the cost back to 2008-levels.

According to the four-some, the bill offers flexibility to states that have different needs.

“One-size-fits-all does not work with education, health care, or transportation – it most certainly will not with nutrition assistance. This legislation also rolls back spending to pre-recession levels,” they said. “If liberals are correct that the nation is better off now than four years ago, then returning to spending levels of four years ago should not be a problem.”

Huelskamp, the lead sponsor, added that getting the food stamp program under control might help to get the farm bill through the Republican-controlled House.

“The massive explosion in nutrition program spending is one of the major concerns holding up the farm bill right now,” said Huelskamp. “In transforming the programs like SNAP, maybe there would be greater chance of advancing the next farm bill.”

Over the summer attempts to block grant the food stamp program failed on the Democratically-controlled Senate side.

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