The 2014 farm bill, which was signed into law by President Obama last Friday, deals a devastating blow to food stamp recipients. The farm bill, which is enacted every five years, allocates federal dollars to various agricultural and food programs across the country. But this year’s bill unfairly favors food producing giants at the expense of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known more commonly by the acronym of SNAP. SNAP provides underprivileged Americans with food stamps so that they don’t go hungry. But the 2014 farm bill reduces SNAP’s funding by $8.7 billion over the next 10 years. At the same time, programs such as the subsidized crop insurance program, which benefit the farming industry, will see a $6 billion increase in funding.
Reaction to this news has been mixed. In an article for Takepart.org, Willy Blackmore lambasted the bill, saying that it threatens an already vulnerable population. Blackmore notes that SNAP recipients already had their benefits reduced by an average of $38 back in November, when stimulus funding for SNAP ended. He says that these new cuts in the farm bill will further reduce the average SNAP recipient’s benefits by an additional $90. He also criticizes the fact that 10% of farmers receive 75% of the new farming subsidies.
However, Bill Tomson of Politico says that this year’s farming bill doesn’t coddle the farming industry as much as it did in the past. Tomson says that about $5 billion used to be given to farmers, whether they really needed it or not. But this year’s bill will only allot money to farmers who struggle with a bad growing season or a drop in agricultural problems. He also notes that President Obama, while hesitant about the SNAP cuts, has endorsed the bill. During a speech at Michigan State University on Friday, Obama said that “[the bill] helps rural communities grow, gives farmers some certainty [and] puts in place important reforms.”
Locally, the farm bill could impact the nearly 700,000 SNAP recipients in Philadelphia. It also threatens “heat and eat” programs throughout Pennsylvania that offer extra SNAP benefits to those that need heating assistance.