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Bill Would Cut Federal Food Aid for Many NYers

By Brian Tumulty on July 1, 2012
© Stargazette.com

WASHINGTON -- An estimated 300,000 New York households would lose an average $90 a month in federal help buying food under the farm bill that recently passed the Senate.

Bread for the World, an anti-hunger Christian advocacy group, is lobbying Congress to avert similar action in the House, where the Republican chairman of the Agriculture Committee is considering cuts more than three times as large.

"I don't think we should just roll over," said the group's president, David Beckmann. "It's not necessary to make poor people hungrier to reduce the deficit."

About 1.6 million New York households qualified for federal food assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2011. About 45 percent had one family member working and 27 percent had two or more members employed, Beckmann said.

Members of Bread for the World have been talking to lawmakers in hopes of preventing cuts to the federal safety net, Beckmann said.

The House Agriculture Committee will begin drafting its version of the farm bill on July 11.

Republicans are planning to scale back commodity programs for farmers and also want to target the bill's biggest program, SNAP, formerly known as food stamps.

In a recent radio interview, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said he's considering cutting $14 billion to $15 billion from SNAP.

Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, one of two New Yorkers on the committee, said Friday he hasn't decided yet whether to support the cuts.

"There's certainly an effort to look at efficiencies and consolidation," he said. "We don't know what the final number is yet."

New York took the brunt of the cuts in the Senate bill largely because many low-income residents automatically qualify for SNAP as participants in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program that helps low-income households paying heating bills, Beckmann said.

Some Republican senators led by Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama have tried to scale back the SNAP program because enrollment has grown so dramatically in recent years.

A New York family of four can qualify for SNAP if their annual income is under $29,064.

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