The U.S. House Committee on Agriculture began hearings on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps) earlier this week with a pledge from Committee Chairman Mike Conaway to “conduct this review without preconceived notions and with a commitment to strengthening the program so it can serve as a tool to help individuals move up the economic ladder.
“We can all agree that no one ought to go hungry in America,” Conaway said, “and SNAP is essential in protecting the most vulnerable citizens during tough times. For many it is a vital lifeline to keeping food on the table. What we don’t want is for this program to hold people back from achieving their potential. I believe there is a role for SNAP, but we need to have a complete and clear understanding of its mission and purpose.”
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In the Senate, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, expressed her desire to prevent cuts in the farm bill. “This point was underscored in a letter from farm, nutrition, conservation groups, and others representing our Farm Bill coalition opposing any attempt to reopen the farm bill and make further cuts through the budget process,” she said in opening remarks during a farm bill implementation hearing this week.
“The certainty of a five-year Farm bill should not be under-estimated for farmers, families, and rural communities all across America. As we know, the Farm Bill is more than just agriculture policy – it’s a food policy, it’s conservation policy, it’s energy policy, and above all - it’s all about jobs.”
Stabenow said the farm bill was passed “…while cutting $23 billion, eliminating duplication, and consolidating more than 100 programs. We were the only committee to voluntarily cut our own budget more than sequestration. So, as a member of the Senate Budget Committee, I intend to make it clear that Agriculture already ‘gave at the office’ when the Committee is talking about reconciliation.”
She said child nutrition is an important part of the farm program and enjoys “a long history of bipartisan support. This year we have a chance to move forward together to reauthorize child nutrition programs and ensure that every child in rural and urban communities has nutritious meals throughout the year – so that they are fit to serve and fit to succeed.”
Conaway, in remarks last week to the 30th Texas Ag Forum in Austin, said the SNAP program deserves a close look. “This is the biggest segment of the farm program so we have to get it right,” Conaway said. “It should work for beneficiaries and it should work for taxpayers. We need a better sense of how it is working. We want to find out what’s working and what isn’t.”
Conaway said another area of concern is the Commodity Futures and Trading Commission (CFTC). “We want to allow the industry to do regulation that makes sense,” he said. Reauthorizing CFTC is a key issue for the 114th Congress, he said.
Other issues on the House Ag Committee agenda include:
- Mandatory price reporting and U.S. Grain Standards Act;
- Trade issues, including TPA, TPP, TPIP, COOL, Cuba, Cotton(China and Turkey) and Rice (Iraq);
- Agriculture tax issues including Section 179 and Bonus Depreciation among others; and
- Oversight of Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule.