U.S House likely to consider food stamps bill this week

The U.S. House is scheduled to debate Wednesday on its version of the food stamps bill, known officially as the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” or SNAP, U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer said Monday.

For years, the federal food stamps program was part of the national farm bill, which authorizes various federal programs to assist the nation’s agriculture and agribusiness communities.

“For the first time in 40 years, we de-coupled the food stamps from the farm bill,” Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, told about two dozen Mid-Missourians attending Monday’s Rotary luncheon. “And I was a big supporter of doing that, against the Farm Bureau’s wishes ... believing that, we help ourselves with the (negotiating) leverage when we go to conference” with the U.S. Senate over its version of the bill.

Luetkemeyer said the Senate-passed farm bill includes food stamps as in past years, but the Senate bill is “not where we want to be.”

The House-passed farm bill “did away with subsidies (and) we go back to using crop insurance as the fall-back position for farmers,” he added. “It’s a good bill, (and) I think it’s going to change the way we do the farm programs in this country.”

Both the Missouri and American Farm Bureaus want Congress to keep the food stamps program as part of the farm bill, and as part of the U.S. Agriculture department operations.

“The Farm Bill” is something that’s very important to much, much of the country and the agricultural community,” Luetkemeyer acknowledged.

But, The Associated Press reported, many conservatives believed the cuts to the nearly $80 billion-a-year food stamp program weren’t high enough in the original, House-proposed farm bill.

It would have cut food stamps assistance only by about $2 billion a year.

“Basically what we’ve done is to take away the connectivity between food stamps and other programs,” Luetkemeyer told the Rotary members.

“Right now, you can qualify for food stamps if you get a heating subsidy — and there’s other programs like that,” where someone can get food stamps even if they don’t meet the government’s income qualifications.

“If you just de-couple those, you can save between $20 billion and $40 billion,” he said. “I think our program is looking at $40 billion, which means you’ve got $40 billion going out to people who don’t qualify for it now.

“Until that passes, the Speaker’s not going to assign any conferees to the conference” committee to negotiate differences between the House and Senate-passed measures.

One in seven Americans use food stamps, The AP reported, and the costs of the program have more than doubled in the past five years.

Luetkemeyer told reporters Monday the Republican-controlled U.S. House is working from an overall “set of principals that we, in the House, have. For instance, on our budget, we’re not going to allow more taxing.

“We believe our tax rates are high enough; if we can get some of our policies in place, which are less taxing and less spending, I think we can improve the situation.”

Failure to keep the farm bill and food stamps bill separate could doom both in Congress, he said.

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