The oppotunity to cut from the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program could put the Farm Bill on the agenda of the lame duck Congress, some agricultural interests say. The 2008 Farm Bill expired Oct. 1, and Congress recessed for the elections without agreement on the 2012 update.
Congressional leaders need to decide pretty quickly whether the Farm Bill will be passed in the current lame duck session, or if it will be put off to 2013.
Farm policy experts on Capitol Hill differ on the route they expect Congress to take. But one possibility is that its passage gets linked to the tax increases and spending cuts the lame duck Congress and President Obama need to make to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff.” Without such an agreement, automatic spending cuts and tax increases will take effect at the end of the year.
As passed by the Senate, the 2012 Farm Bill would cut spending by $23 billion over ten years. The House wanted $35 billion in cuts, largely from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, the formal name for food stamps. The number of people getting food stamps has grown with the country’s lackluster economy to 46.68 million or about one in seven Americans. Improvements in the economy and tougher eligibility, however, could produce billions in SNAP savings.
And only by finding billions fast — in either spending cuts or new tax revenue or both — can Congress avoid sequestration, the automatic cuts and tax increases totaling $644 billion that go into effect if nothing is done.
The Farm Bill authorizes a broad array of food and agricultural programs with 15 spending categories adding up to $100 billion a year. Both the Senate and House passed versions of the 700 page Farm Bill earlier this year, but they were not enough alike to become law.
The Senate, the first to make cuts in food stamps, passed a more reform-minded bill with crop insurance being substituted for flat out grain subsidies. The House, with the bigger food stamp reductions, adopted a more status quo bill.© Food Safety News