Very early this morning, after a long day of debate, the House Agriculture Committee reported the 2012 Farm Bill, H.R. 6083, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM), out of committee by a bipartisan vote of 35-11.
The Public Health Institute (PHI) strongly opposes the $16.5 billion in cuts that H.R. 6083 makes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). If these cuts were enacted, up to 3 million individuals would no longer receive the food stamp benefits they need to obtain healthy foods and avoid hunger. Additionally, benefits would be reduced by an average of $90 per month for an additional 500,000 low-income individuals. Finally, these cuts would eliminate the automatic eligibility of 280,000 children for free school meals.
“These cuts go much deeper with a much more severe impact than the Senate proposal that commits SNAP to $4.5 billion in cuts,” said Matthew Marsom, vice president for public health policy and advocacy at the Public Health Institute. “There is no question that the House bill would increase economic hardship among working families in every congressional district and seriously compromise the nutritional well-being of millions of vulnerable Americans, particularly the working poor, who are struggling to make ends meet.”
PHI recognizes that the nation faces significant fiscal challenges that require Congress to make serious budgetary decisions. However, the record high rates of preventable diet-related conditions and skyrocketing health care costs are serious challenges that must be addressed. Now is not the time to cut programs that have proven to be effective in improving nutrition and reducing risk of diet-related chronic disease.
While PHI cannot support this bill because of the unacceptable cuts to nutrition, we commend Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) of the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture for working on a bipartisan basis to advance the farm bill, HR 6038, successfully out of Committee. This is an important step toward enacting final legislation before the end of this Congress.
The Public Health Institute urges Congress to continue to advance the farm bill in a timely manner in order to achieve a farm bill this year that protects the nutrition programs from cuts that would compromise their capacity to provide necessary food assistance that promotes the health of the most vulnerable among us.