What the 'farm-only' House farm bill means for nutrition programs

Jul 16, 2013

Credit Selbe B / flickr

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed its version of the farm bill, a version that excludes funding for nutrition assistance programs nationwide.  But most analysts believe the Democrat-controlled Senate won’t approve a version that does not include funding for programs like food stamps. 

The House version of the bill, passed Thursday, only deals with farm policy, completely excluding the funding allotted for food aid in the Senate’s version.  That affects funding for programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP or simply food stamps.  Previous farm bills have included funding for food stamps. If the House’s version becomes law, food stamps still could be covered in separate legislation. 

Jeanette Mott Oxford is a former Democratic state representative in Missouri who now serves as executive director at the Missouri Association for Social Welfare.  She says making cuts to programs like food stamps would weaken the United States’ safety net for the poor: “If we take away the government programs, the little programs at our churches or other kinds of community centers—you know they can’t keep up with the demand now.  So how are they going to make it if we increase the demand on them?”

Sandy Rikoon is an MU professor and the director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security at the University of Missouri.  He says programs like SNAP are well worth the taxpayer money at stake if it means feeding impoverished Americans: “It’s the difference.  I mean, SNAP is the main difference between having 45 million people who will perhaps experience hunger and having 15 million people who will experience hunger at some time during the year.  So it’s incredibly important.”

A conference committee of House and Senate members will meet to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill before the current farm bill expires on September 30th.