A New York senator would like to see the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program expanded to give residents of Puerto Rico access to benefits.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., spoke on this week’s Agri-Pulse Newsmakers. When discussing her farm bill priorities, Gillibrand said Puerto Ricans, who are U.S. citizens, “don't get the SNAP benefits [they] need or deserve.”

“We want to move the SNAP program to actually reflect that they are Americans," Gillibrand said. "They deserve the same access to food security that anybody else does.”

Currently, Puerto Ricans can participate in the Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP), a federal block grant that provides food assistance to low-income households in U.S. territories like Puerto Rice and American Samoa. 

Since the block grant provides a fixed amount of federal spending, NAP participants are subject to more restrictions based on the territory they are in and lower benefits compared to participants on the SNAP program.

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She also wants to see an increase in the overall SNAP benefit. 

“The SNAP benefit just isn't very generous, it's quite small. It's just over $2 a meal. So, it's great because it offsets the costs … but it's not enough to buy the whole meal,” said Gillibrand. 

“We've been fighting very hard to move the benefit from an existing Thrifty [Food] Program to one that's a little more generous, and just adds a few cents a day just so that you can have more access to more food,” said Gillibrand.

Jackie Klippenstein with Dairy Farmers of America and Brandon Lipps with Caprock Strategies were also on this week’s show to further discuss what changes could look like in dairy policy and nutrition programs in the upcoming farm bill.

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