A piece of the farm bill fight got pretty contentious Wednesday on Capitol Hill. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., called the move to satisfy reconciliation instructions required by the House Concurrent Resolution as "meaningless" yet the House Ag Committee advanced the proposal by voice vote. The changes pushed forward would make policy changes resulting in one, five and 10-year savings estimates of $7.7 billion , $19.7 billion and $33.2 billion, respectively.
The savings will come from making what the committee calls "commons sense reforms in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formally known as the food stamp program." The statement notes that SNAP has grown 270% over the past 10 years and the committee has proposed closing loopholes, reducing waste and abuse and increasing the integrity of the program to ensure it serves only those households who qualify for the program.
During discussion of the proposal, Peterson made a statement noting that the proposal "before us is not serious. You can't have a serious conversation about getting our budget under control when you take large items like defense off the table."
Peterson adds that the reconciliation vote takes a "meat ax to nutrition programs that feed millions of hard-working families, in an effort to avoid defense cuts."
In the statement from the Ag Committee, Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., says "every one of these proposals represents common sense and good government in a time of fiscal restraint. There is no denying that SNAP provides important support for many Americans. That's why it is important that we ensure the integrity of this program. Today, the Committee demonstrated that we are committed to doing our part to reduce the debt and provide nutrition assistance for American families most in need."
The move is one part of a series of measures aimed at reconciling the House budget proposal - which aims at cutting as much as $34 billion in ag and nutrition spending from the farm bill, but the real fight is ahead. Peterson told a group of agricultural journalists this week that the farm bill will be the real deal and that's when the fight will begin.