The House Agriculture Committee approved the long-awaited 2018 Farm Bill Wednesday. It includes a controversial change to food stamps that could push thousands of people off the program. That's not sitting well with Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), who sits on the Senate Agriculture committee.
The five-year Farm Bill, which is set to expire in September, governs everything from tiny family farms to giant corporate farms, and funds for conservation, controlling farm run-off and research. It also sets policy for pretty much every nutrition program in the country. Nutrition accounts for about 80 percent of the $800 billion bill.
The GOP version approved in committee demands a dramatic change to the giant SNAP program, formerly known as food stamps. House Republicans want more recipients to meet work requirements to be eligible for food assistance.
Gillibrand is among the majority of Democrats sharply criticizing the GOP plan to change SNAP. In a phone call with reporters, she called the plan “cynical."
"Because it sounds great to say, 'Oh, we’re just going to require people to work'. Well, we already have been doing that for 20 years. People do work. People are typically working two jobs, so it’s not the problem with SNAP that people are getting money and not working," she said.
The House Agriculture Committee says the stricter work rules would affect 5-7 million recipients. It estimates a million people would leave the food stamp program as a result.
Instead, Gillibrand is sponsoring a bill to increase food stamp benefits for children by 27 percent, or $42 per month. "No community is better served for having hungry kids," Gillibrand said. "No classroom is better when a child shows up to school hungry and no amount of government savings is worth a child in bed hungry at night."
Some 2.8 million New Yorkers receive SNAP benefits. The Agriculture Committee’s approval is the latest step in what observers say will be a long negotiation over the final bill. The Senate still hasn’t released its version of the Farm Bill.