Food Security Advocates Defend Food Stamps

With politicians on both sides of the aisle looking for ways to trim the 2012 Farm Bill’s budget, the Food Stamp Program, the largest single component of the farm bill, is providing a tempting target to budget hawks.

The Food Stamp Program, the colloquial name for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, was initially introduced in 1939. Since then, it has been a major part of American agricultural and anti-poverty policy. In 2010, more than $65 billion in food stamps were distributed. As of October 2011, more than 46 million Americans were using food stamps (with that number expected to rise this year).

The widespread use and the costs of maintaining the Food Stamp Program has split Congress into competing camps. Deficit hawks like Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan have proposed budgets that cut over $80 billion from the program over the next several years. The Senate farm bill currently being debate contains shallower cuts, but still eliminates nearly $5 billion dollars from the program’s budget.

One the other side of the debate, many politicians have pointed to the widespread use of the program as evidence of its importance to millions of Americans. The deep budget cuts proposed by Rep. Ryan could bump millions of American households off the program, severely restricting their access to stable food supplies. New York Senator Kirstin Gillibrand and Washington Senator Patty Murray offered legislation that would restore food stamp funding by capping subsidies to the most profitable crop insurance companies.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer