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Karl Guenther Column: SNAP program causes issues for legislators

by Cassandra Basore

We’ve long been urging Congress to “snap out of it”, encouraging emergence from the do-nothing lethargy that seems to have set in.  What we did not mean - - most of us, anyway, is to encourage abandonment of the SNAP program.  That’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which formerly was, simply, Food Stamps.  But, that same Congress, under enormous pressure to approve a new Farm Bill (which also is called something else) finally went to work.  The Senate, dominated by the Democrats determined to preserve the SNAP, did offer up a new Farm Bill again this session.  Over in the House, dominated by the Republicans, there is a House version which does not include the SNAP. There are more budget-cutting enthusiasts in the House than in the Senate, and the budget-cutters apparently saw an opportunity to “cut a fat hog” by eliminating the SNAP - - that is, Food Stamps, which is about 80% of the Agriculture Department budget.  I watched and listened to the major network spokesmen decrying the approval in that proposed legislation of millions of dollars in, as they put it, “corporate welfare for corporate farms that don’t even need the subsidies”.  That’s not a direct quote, but it does pick up the obvious intent.  I neither heard nor read any reference to the fact that those subsidies can’t be disbursed in the absence of certified right to the subsidy, nor to the fact that all those subsidies, and a whole host of other Agriculture Department undertakings all are financed by the 20% of the Ag Department budget, after Food Stamps gets its 80%..

It didn’t occur to me until after the report on the House-approved Farm Bill without the Food Stamp program- - which undoubtedly dooms it to failure,  that there might very well be a another way around this.

NO-TILL FARMER, a Wisconsin-based farm publication carried my brief response to its report on the House action, wherein I expressed the wish that some enterprising young legislator might have proposed separate legislation to cover the requirements of Food Stamps, that bill to be submitted as “Companion Legislation”, or some such terminology.  That would have accommodated my long-held belief that Food Stamps, or SNAP should not be a part of the Ag Department budget or administration.  As far as I can tell, the only real connection between agriculture and the Food Stamp program is the fact that Agriculture produces the food which SNAP makes available to kitchen tables by way of the food stamps.  Supplemental Nutrition  Assistance more logically should come by way of the Surgeon General’s Office, or Health, Education, and Welfare.  It logically should NOT be part of Justice, or Defense, or State, or Agriculture.