Food Stamps and the Farm Bill

The version of the farm bill that emerged from the Senate Agriculture Committee contains $4.5 billion in cuts to the food stamps program over 10 years.

That amount is a small fraction of the nation’s spending on food stamps, currently nearly $80 billion a year, but would, nevertheless, be devastating for nearly half-a-million households that would have their benefits sliced by an average of $90 per month, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Such a cutback in food benefits for struggling families and children is unconscionable in a bill containing plenty of unnecessary giveaways for corporate farming interests. With the Senate poised to take up the bill, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat of New York, is waging a tough fight to restore the food-stamp cut. She has offered an amendment that would make a humane and sensible change — lowering the subsidies to highly profitable crop insurance companies to avoid any trims in the food-stamp program.

It is not yet clear which of the hundreds of pending farm bill amendments will receive a vote. Senator Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, should make sure that the Gillibrand amendment gets one, and then he must rally Senate Democrats to pass it.

Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee have already voted to cut food stamps by $33 billion over the next decade. A vote for Senator Gillibrand’s proposal would send an important message about priorities. For the Democratic-led Senate to allow any reduction to food stamps is no way to open negotiations with the House.