House-passed farm bill bans gov’t from food stamp advertising, promotion

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A new House-passed farm bill bans the Department of Agriculture from actively recruiting or advertising for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps.

On Wednesday, the House passed the Agriculture Act of 2014, a five-year farm bill, by a vote of 251-166.

“[N]o funds authorized to be appropriated under this Act shall be used by the Secretary for — ‘(A) recruitment activities designed to persuade an individual to apply for supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits; ‘(B) television, radio, or billboard advertisements that are designed to promote supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits and enrollment; or ‘(C) any agreements with foreign governments designed to promote supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits and enrollment,” the bill reads.

The legislation further instructs the secretary of agriculture to issue regulations banning outside entities that receive funding from recruiting for SNAP.

“The Secretary shall issue regulations that prohibit entities that receive funds under this Act to compensate any person for conducting outreach activities relating to participation in, or for recruiting individuals to apply to receive benefits under, the supplemental nutrition assistance program, if the amount of the compensation would be based on the number of individuals who apply to receive the benefits,” the legislation adds.

The USDA has come under fire in recent years for its aggressive outreach aimed at bringing more people to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — including a partnership with the Mexican government to promote food stamps among Mexican Americans, Mexican nationals and migrant communities in America. (RELATED: USDA partnering with Mexico to boost food stamp participation)

In addition to restricting recruitment, the legislation cuts the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program by one percent, or about $800 million annually, which is less than what House Republicans had initially sought last year, but more than the cuts the Senate offered in its farm bill.

Participation in the food stamp program has exploded in recent years, from 28.2 million average annual participants in 2008 to 47.6 million in 2013. (RELATED: Another record-breaking month for food stamps)

The bill now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass.

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Caroline May