In the wake of upcoming cuts to the Food Stamp Program, politicians on both sides of the aisle are questioning the nature of the farm bill and wondering whether it is appropriate to use agricultural legislation as a vehicle for reducing or advancing anti-poverty programs.
Since its inception in the 1930s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has administered the Food Stamp Program. In 1964, when the program was made permanent as an agreement between rural and urban lawmakers, the goals of the program were to simultaneously reduce poverty and stimulate the agricultural economy.
Since the 60s, food stamps have undergone a series of legislative reforms, including major overhauling during welfare reform in the 1990s. Since then, many Americans have viewed the Food Stamp Program less as a way to strengthen American farming, and more as a social safety program designed to combat poverty.
The debate in the House of Representatives reflects this division. Republicans, led by House Agriculture Committee chair Frank Lucas, are portraying significant cuts to nutritional funding as an effort to strengthen farm legislation. According to Lucas, “This is a balanced, reform-minded, fiscally responsible bill that underscores our commitment to production agriculture and rural America, achieves real savings and improves program efficiency.”
Democrats, however, have condemned the cuts, claiming that they are an unnecessary and unfair burden to lower income Americans already struggling in tough economic times. According to California Representative Lynn Woolsey, “These cuts are a slap in the face to millions of people trying to make ends meet.”
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer