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Peterson: SNAP cuts threaten the 2018 farm bill

Top Democrat on House Ag Committee believes SNAP cuts could jeopardize 2018 farm law.

It’s been a fight to prevent the wholesale cuts Trump administration officials wanted to make to farm programs in the USDA budget. But it’s the funding reductions for SNAP that may put the 2018 farm bill in jeopardy.

The House Republican budget resolution for fiscal year 2018 includes $10 billion in cuts to Agriculture Committee programs, and specifically to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps.

“The cuts as outlined in the Republican majority’s budget resolution will make it much more difficult, if not near impossible, to pass a new farm bill,” says Rep. Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., who is the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee. “Singling out the SNAP program will kill the farm bill.”

Rep. Peterson’s comments came in a statement released by his office Monday (July 18) after the House Appropriations Committee advanced its fiscal 2018 House Budget Resolution on July 12. When writing the resolution, the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee assumed an overall discretionary spending cap of $20 billion, which is $876 million less than it had in the FY 2017 Omnibus.

Political ideology at play

As a result, the initial Subcommittee bill made cuts to a variety of program across multiple USDA agencies, including drastic cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. During the full Appropriations Committee’s consideration of the bill yesterday, Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., agreed to reverse a number of those cuts, while several members of the Committee spoke out against other cuts that were not reversed.

“This is the kind of political ideology that led to the failure of the 2014 farm bill on the House floor,” said Rep. Peterson. “Strict work requirements exist under current law and may be waived at the request of the states, with both Republican and Democratic governors having sought and obtained work waivers.”

The congressman said giving states more flexibility, as the budget suggests, could leave millions of dollars unaccountable. States could then charge the federal government for the additional expense of administering the program beyond federal standards.

“This is more of a political exercise than a serious debate but it could have a very real impact on the fate of the farm bill,” he said. “There are ways for us to work together but this isn’t it. I believe there are areas of SNAP that can and should be reformed and where we can reach bipartisan consensus. These policy decisions are best left to the Agriculture Committee during our farm bill debate.”

Headed for House floor?

The House Agriculture Appropriations bill is now able to go to the House floor for consideration by the full House, though it is not at all clear when or even if that will happen. If a stand-alone bill does not go to the House floor, it will likely be wrapped into a larger Omnibus funding package that includes multiple appropriations bills later in the year.

Congressional observers expect the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee to debate and vote on its own agriculture appropriations bill in the coming weeks. Once that happens, negotiations will ramp up between agriculture appropriators in the House and Senate.

For a breakdown of the budget situation, click on https://budget.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Building-a-Better-America-PDF-1.pdf.

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