Farm Bill deadline draws attention to SNAP policies

Published 8:22 am Wednesday, May 15, 2024

By Sid Salter
On Capitol Hill, the calendar is driving increased partisan attention on the new U.S. Farm Bill.
The current 2018 Farm Bill will expire on Sept. 30. Congress and President Joe Biden extended
the five-year original term of the bill on Nov. 16, 2023.
The headlines are already gravitating to the most populist facet of the complex Farm Bill
legislation, which is the future direction of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
(SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps. As the poorest state in the union and a food-
producing state, utilizing and using SNAP is an extremely relevant economic discussion in
Mississippi each year.
House Agriculture Chair Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., unveiled his Farm Bill summary proposal
earlier this month. Thompson’s plan quickly drew criticism from the Biden administration and
liberal think tanks like the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) because of a proposed
freeze on the so-called “Thrifty Food Plan.” The TFP is the cost mechanism for SNAP benefits
and freezing those costs, Democrats say, will effectively result in a cut in the program for
Critics say Thompson’s summary of the next Farm Bill would result in $28 billion in cuts to the
SNAP program. But conservatives fear that SNAP is plagued with systemic fraud and waste and
see SNAP reforms as key to reining in overall federal spending.
The CBPP’s review of Thompson’s proposal was ominous: “This proposal would limit the U.S.
Department of Agriculture’s authority to adjust the cost of the TFP to accurately reflect the cost
of a frugal, healthy diet. USDA would be required to regularly undertake a rigorous and
resource-intensive evaluation that would only ever result in a single pre-determined outcome: the
cost of a healthy diet would remain unchanged, regardless of scientific evidence to the contrary.
“The nation’s most important anti-hunger program, SNAP is highly effective at reducing hunger
and poverty; SNAP participation is also linked to better outcomes for education, health, and
economic security. It is critical that the farm bill protect SNAP from harmful cuts and policy
changes, including Chair Thompson’s proposal, which would weaken the program’s ability to
meet its core mission,” the review held.
Senate Agriculture Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., released a Farm Bill summary that
advocated another extension of the 2018 Farm Bill along with adjustments in conservation funds
to climate change programs. The Senate version avoids TFP changes, thereby providing the
means for growth in the SNAP program. Many House Republicans advocate not merely the TFP
changes to freeze food stamp spending, but deeper cuts in the SNAP program.

Sen. Stabenow has resisted prior congressional attempts to reduce SNAP benefits and argues in
favor of a more comprehensive approach to pass a bipartisan 2024 Farm Bill before the Sept.
Stabenow said: “I am glad to see the family safety net is working. Nutrition spending in the
SNAP program is decreasing as the economy improves, food prices stabilize, and fewer people
need SNAP.
“But the broader trends make abundantly clear what I have been saying for months: If we are
serious about passing a Farm Bill that keeps farmers farming, families fed, and rural
communities strong, the time to act is now.
“Farming has always been one of the riskiest businesses there is, and that is why we need to
invest in the tools that support all farmers and think creatively about new solutions that provide
targeted and timely assistance to help them meet the emerging challenges they face.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one in three (32.1%) of Mississippians are eligible for
SNAP benefits. U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service listed Mississippi’s
average monthly SNAP benefits at $157.84 per person or $322.12 per household.
Federal Reserve Economic Data found a total of 409,158 SNAP recipients in Mississippi in June
2022. The Mississippi Department of Human Services reported SNAP program costs at $837.98
Nationally, the cost of the program rose precipitously from $17 billion in 2000 to some $119.5
billion last year. Participation has risen from 17 million in 2000 to more than 41.2 million in
With seats on the Agriculture Committees in their respective chambers, Mississippi U.S. Sen.
Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Brookhaven, and U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly, R-Tupelo, will be in a position to
help shape the new Farm Bill.
Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at

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