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Looming cuts to farm bill could take a big bite out of food stamps program

By Kaitlin Loukides
Published On: May 21 2013 07:48:09 PM CDT
Updated On: May 21 2013 07:49:08 PM CDT

National lawmakers discuss major cuts to the farm bill.

POCATELLO, Idaho -

National lawmakers are in deep discussion this month over what some are calling one of the largest pieces of legislation they have to tackle.

Congressional leaders are debating over how much they plan on cutting from the $300 billion farm bill, with the largest $80 billion piece of that pie allotted toward spending on domestic food aid. Meaning, the federal food stamps programs will be taking the biggest hit if these cuts are approved.

The Senate is proposing a $400 million cut while the House is seeking to chop $2.5 billion from the food stamp program.

The Idaho Farm Bureau has been negotiating the guidelines of the new bill with efforts to try and minimalize the effects of the cuts.

Idaho Farm Bureau representative John Thompson said cutting this much from the bill will impact a significant amount of people from across Idaho.

“Coming through this recession, a lot of people have depended on that,” Thompson said. “But that is also the biggest part of the bill. That is where a majority of the cuts will come from.”

The Idaho Food Bank said there are 232,000 Idahoans living on food stamps which they said is about 14-percent of the population. The Food Bank also said cutting this amount of money from the food stamps program will cause 210,000 children across the state to lose their free school meals.

Idaho Food Bank President and CEO Karen Vauk said with more than one million pounds in food they give out across the state each month, this number will be expected to increase if people can no longer maintain assistance from food stamps.

“There is just no way we will be able to fill that gap,” Vauk said.

Vauk also said food stamps alone are not enough to keep people fed throughout the month with an average of about $1.50 food stamps provide each person for each meal.

The cuts to the overall bill will also impact farmers across the state who, if the cuts approved, will see drastic cuts to government subsidies and crop insurance. This could add up to a $2.4 billion dollar cut from government farm spending.

Thompson said these cuts will change the way farmers get their funding, and instead of being paid directly by the government, they will need to hope they will be able to dominate the global market in order for their crops to be profitable.

“It's ensuring a domestic food supply exists which is important. It's a national security issue,” Thompson said.

However, he also said many of the farmers, instead of being directly by government, will see certain insurance benefits that will ensure they can maintain their farms and compete in the global market despite any harsh weather conditions that might pose as a threat.

Thompson said farmers in the US are subsidized by the government by eight percent, which is enough to barely sustain their farms. Compared to the rest of the world: Canada receives 14-percent, countries within the European Union receive 18-percent, and Japan rakes in a whopping 52-percent from its government.

Although the Idaho Farm Bureau has been hoping to prevent the cuts from happening, Thompson said, realistically they are still inevitable with the current state of the nation's economy looking at making cuts from various other programs across the board.

The current farming programs already in place will expire by the end of this September.

Follow Kaitlin on Twitter: @KaitlinLoukides

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