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SNAP: It’s a Mixed Bag

February 2014

The best assessment we can give of the farm bill is that it is a mixed bag. The Agricultural Act of 2014, which passed the entire Congress on Feb. 4, is a five-year authorization of food and farm programs. While the bill includes important reforms to food aid, it also cuts SNAP (formerly food stamps) by more than $8 billion.

These cuts are extremely disappointing. However, the advocacy of Bread members was critical in ensuring that millions of people were not kicked off the program. Here's a summary of what is important in the bill:

  • U.S. food aid. There are positive changes to food-aid programs that make them more efficient, enabling the greatest impact possible while improving food-aid quality and nutrition. This includes increased cash flexibility for development programs and establishing a permanent local and regional procurement (LRP) program with funding of up to $80 million a year. This is a good platform to build on as we launch the 2014 Offering of Letters, which focuses on reforming U.S. food aid.
  • SNAP. The bill includes an $8.6 billion benefit cut. Though less than the $40 billion in cuts proposed in 2013, this cut comes at a time when many families are struggling to make ends meet. It will not kick current beneficiaries off the program, but it will cut benefits for approximately 850,000 households in 15 states and the District of Columbia just months after every family getting SNAP saw its monthly allotments reduced.

As important as what was included in the bill is what was not included. Harmful SNAP policy changes that would have kicked millions off the program, banned convicted felons for life, punished people for not finding work in a tough economy, and allowed states to drug test every applicant were virtually eliminated. There are also no cuts to food aid or food-aid quality programs.

The last time we advocated for the farm bill, in 2008, we won the biggest increase in funding for SNAP — about $10 billion. This time, Bread neither endorsed nor opposed the farm bill. Nevertheless, this isn’t the first time SNAP was cut to fund other priorities. Bread will continue to urge Congress not to use SNAP as a source of funds for other areas. Bread believes that families struggling to put food on the table must be lawmakers’ priority.

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