Stabenow expects lengthy discussion on nutrition cuts

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 16, 2013 - Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said today that she is anticipating a “big debate” over proposed cuts to the nutrition title of the farm bill (S. 954) when the Senate begins deliberations on May 20.

The Senate's Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act seeks to cut about $4 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

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During a teleconference today, Stabenow said she and other lawmakers went through the bill to ferret out any abuses or retail fraud related to SNAP in order to cut costs. She also said a lower unemployment rate has brought program prices down, an assertion countered by various studies.

“This is about providing help when needed,” Stabenow said, noting the bill clamps down on individuals who should not be receiving the benefits, such as lottery winners.

The proposed reduction has resonated strongly with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who has said the job of reducing the deficit should not be placed on the backs of hungry people. Gillibrand said about 50 percent of SNAP recipients are children.

She actually broke ranks with Stabenow, voting against the legislation in committee. The committee approved the bill on a 15-5 vote May 14.

Still, Stabenow said she “absolutely rejects the levels of the House cuts,” which are set at $20 billion. The House Agriculture Committee approved its farm bill on May 15.

“[That level] does not have support in the Senate,” Stabenow said.

The farm bill debate is expected to hit the Senate floor beginning May 20. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed a motion to proceed on May 15, which met with no objection.

Meanwhile, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., told reporters today at a press conference that the House bill could force as many as 2 million low-income Americans to “go hungry.”

“This could include nearly a million kids,” DeLauro said. “Their bill also kicks roughly 210,000 low-income children from the free school lunch program.”

DeLauro said nearly 99 percent of food stamp recipients have incomes below the poverty line, and that SNAP has one of the lowest error rates of any government program.

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