Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., says she's opposed to broad, sweeping cuts to nutrition spending and wants to make sure the upcoming farm bill doesn't pursue those kinds of changes.

Speaking on Agri-Pulse Newsmakers, Stabenow says the farm bill has a commitment to ensure there is a “farm safety net for farmers and a family safety net” and that she “intends to keep that commitment broadly.”

In the 2018 farm bill, Congress called on the Department of Agriculture to reevaluate the Thrifty Food Plan, USDA's calculation for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. That update went into effect last year.

Stabenow said the updated plan created a “level playing field” for families facing rising food costs.

“I'm not interested in cutting food assistance for families just to say we did it … we want to make sure that in the United States of America, folks can put food on the table for their children and have the benefit of being able to have the healthiest, safest, frankly still most affordable, food in the world,” said Stabenow. 

The farm bill has long benefited from a coalition of lawmakers on Capitol Hill interested in supporting either ag programs, food programs, or both. But some recent votes on the House floor have tested that coalition, and debate over the nutrition title could put that unity under further pressure.

Tara Smith, executive vice president of Michael Torrey Associates, says funding allocation debates are nothing new for farm bill politics.

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“Every farm bill, there are discussions about 'should we move money from one title to another title?'” said Smith. She noted much of the discussion will take place after the mid-term elections and will be heavily influenced by whether or not Democrats or Republicans are in the majority of either congressional chamber and “how much of a margin they have to work with within their own delegations.”

Bruce Knight with Strategic Conservation Solutions and Robert Guenther with the International Fresh Produce Association also joined this week’s show to discuss conservation programs and the produce industry’s farm bill priorities.

This week's Newsmakers can be viewed here

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