Colo. hunger watchers welcome long-stalled farm bill deal

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]ongress spent two years kicking the can down the road, but it appears members are finally prepared to vote on a farm bill this week. The revised version of the legislation would cut $8 billion from the food stamp or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as it’s now called, over the next decade.

Michelle Ray of Hunger Free Colorado says that many of the provisions in the new bill will impact Coloradans — think hemp and firefighting, for example. But she adds that the proposed $800 million annual cut to food stamps won’t directly affect Coloradans where it really counts.

“The substantial cut to ‘heat and eat,’ which makes up the majority of the $8.6 billion in cuts over the next 10 years, would not directly impact Coloradans,” Ray wrote to The Colorado Independent.

“Heat and eat” refers to a kind of loophole in SNAP policy where states offer beneficiaries a nominal heat credit in order to help them qualify for greater food benefits. Even long-term SNAP supporters like Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, have said that closing the “heat and eat” loophole seems fair.

In addition to making cuts to SNAP, the farm bill also proposes measures to get more nutritious food to people who need it, including innovative proposals such as those requiring SNAP-eligible stores to stock more fresh produce or finding ways beneficiaries can use their SNAP cards at farmers markets.

The farm bill is an enormous legislative undertaking. It subsidizes agriculture and nutrition coast to coast to the tune of $100 billion per year. Democrats hoped to cut $4 billion from the SNAP program. Republicans sought to cut $40 billion.

For more information the farm bill and nutrition, check out this pretty thorough run-down from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

House agriculture chair, Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., told TIME he thinks there’s a large enough center coalition to pass the compromise bill.

Ray said that, although Hunger Free would prefer a bill that strengthens SNAP, she was clear about their stance on the bill now under consideration.

“[T]his is a good compromise — much better than the House-voted bill that included the $40 billion in cuts.”

[Photo by Karen Apricot]