Senate Passes Farm Bill Out of Ag Committee with 15-5 Vote
Yesterday, the Senate Agriculture Committee marked up the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, commonly referred to as the farm bill. The draft of the bill amended by the committee will now be scheduled for a full Senate vote. We thank Bread for the World members who took the time to urge their senators on the agriculture committee to ensure a place at the table for hungry and poor people by opposing cuts to SNAP and international food aid.
The Senate version of the farm bill cuts SNAP (formerly food stamps) by $4.1 billion over five years, which would leave nearly 500,000 households without benefits. (In opening statements, Sens. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cowan (D-Mass.), Harkin (D-Iowa), and Brown (D-Ohio) spoke favorably of SNAP and nutrition programs).
Food aid fared better, with a proposed expansion of a program that creates flexibility in purchasing emergency food and includes provisions to improve the quality of food aid, particularly for mothers, children under five, and other target populations. International food aid provisions remain intact moving to floor debate and we will continue to ask senators to support those provisions.
The nutrition portion of the bill, under which SNAP is authorized, saw numerous amendments submitted for consideration, none of which made it through to the final version of the committee’s bill. Below is a summary of the amendments offered or mentioned in committee:
Gillibrand Amendment #2 – Restores $4.1 billion in SNAP cuts with an offset in crop insurance and protects the connection between the low-income heating assistance program(LIHEAP) and SNAP. The amendment was offered and withdrawn, which means it will likely be brought up when the bill goes to the floor. Bread for the World supports this amendment.
Johanns Amendment #2 – Limits how states administer SNAP by restricting categorical eligibility to those receiving cash assistance. Currently, states use categorical eligibility to align SNAP eligibility rules to Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), allowing them to raise the gross income test and lift or eliminate the asset test. The proposal would displace 1.8 million people from the program. This amendment was defeated by voice vote. We thank Sens. Stabenow (D-Mich.), Cochran (R-Miss), and Gillibrand, all of whom spoke out strongly against this cut. Bread for the World opposes this amendment.
Roberts Amendment #5 – Severs the ability of states to coordinate LIHEAP and SNAP, restricts categorical eligibility, and eliminates what remains of the temporary boost in SNAP benefits that was part of the 2009 stimulus package. These are the same proposals included in a bill, previously introduced by Sen. Roberts (R-Kan.), that included $31 billion in SNAP cuts. The amendment was offered and withdrawn and may be brought up on the Senate floor. Bread for the World opposes this amendment.
Roberts Amendment #6 – Severs the ability of states to coordinate LIHEAP with SNAP, cutting SNAP benefits by approximately $12 billion. The amendment was not offered for a vote, but Sen. Roberts indicated his intention to bring it up on the floor. Bread for the World opposes this amendment.
Roberts Amendment #7 – Cuts what Sen. Roberts calls “duplicative” employment and training (E&T) programs. While some argue SNAP recipients should participate in other E&T programs, Congress has cut funding for key job training and employment programs by over $1 billion since 2010. The amendment was not offered for a vote, but Sen. Roberts indicated his intention to bring it up on the floor. The amendment was withdrawn and may be brought up on the floor. Bread for the World opposes this amendment.
Thune Amendment #4 – Cuts SNAP Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Grants by capping the program at $5 per person. This results in a cut of $2 billion. With SNAP benefits averaging less than $1.50 per person, per meal, nutrition education programs are critical in helping families stretch their SNAP benefits and make nutritious choices. The amendment was defeated on party line roll call vote. Bread for the World opposes this amendment.
Thune Amendment #9 – Tightens the criteria by which USDA can give states work requirement waivers for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD). The amendment was defeated on voice vote. Bread for the World opposes this amendment.
The bill passed out of committee by a vote of 15 to 5. Senators voting against were Gillibrand, Roberts, McConnell (R-Ky.), Johanns (R-Neb.), Thune (R-N.D.) We will continue to message our members of Congress to amend the bill on the floor and oppose cuts to SNAP.
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