WASHINGTON – Food-stamp programs face sweeping reform in a new farm bill passed by the House Committee on Agriculture Wednesday.
Part of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act is aimed at tightening loopholes and automatic eligibility provisions for food stamps while spending $80 billion per year on food aid.
Among the targets of reforms are states providing households with small amounts of heating assistance despite claiming no heating expenses, which under the current program allows them to qualify for increased assistance.
The new legislation would also cancel automatic enrollment into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) resulting solely from recipients’ applications to other programs.
According to The Associated Press, the legislation cuts little more than 3 percent from the SNAP program, totaling about $2.5 billion in cuts per year for a decade.
The bill passed in committee by a bipartisan vote of 36-10, despite a Democratically proposed amendment to remove the SNAP reforms, which was defeated by a vote of 27 to 17.
“I am proud of the Committee’s effort to advance a farm bill with significant savings and reforms. We achieve nearly $40 billion in savings by eliminating outdated government programs and reforming others,” Oklahoma Republican Rep. Frank Lucas, the committee chairman, said in a statement released Wednesday.
“No other committee in Congress is voluntarily cutting money, in a bipartisan way, from its jurisdiction to reduce the size and scope of the federal government. I appreciate the efforts of my colleagues and the bipartisan nature in which this legislation was written and approved,” Lucas said.
The Senate Committee on Agriculture passed a version of the same bill Tuesday and will likely take up consideration in the full chamber next week. The House version is expected to make it to the floor in June. A successful bicameral version would define food assistance, farm subsidization and rural programs for the next five years at a cost of almost $100 billion.
Since 2008, the cost of the SNAP program has more than doubled, with the rise in eligibility recipients attributed to the Obama administration’s stimulus package passed in 2009.
Correction: This story originally stated that $600 million of $2.5 billion in yearly savings are mandated by sequestration. In fact, SNAP is exempted from the sequester cuts.