Top Agriculture Committee Dem downplays nutrition cuts in farm bill

The bill, H.R. 1947, cuts $20 billion in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over ten years, but Peterson noted that the bill also increases funding for community food projects.

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Republicans highlighted that the cuts are needed to reduce fraud and abuse of the program, which are big reasons why SNAP has increased so dramatically over the last few years. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said food stamp spending has doubled since 2008, and tripled since 2002.

"Without reform, food stamp spending will continue to increase through loopholes the Obama administration has used to increase the program," Rogers said.

Republicans have argued for the last year that the Obama administration is promoting the use of food stamps, including to prospective immigrants, and have also argued in favor of means testing the program.

Peterson's comments reflect some of the support among farm-state members for language in the bill that updates U.S. farm policy. But that language is a small part of the spending in the bill — most of which deals with SNAP, and many Democrats are expected to oppose the bill because of the cuts to that program.

"That is too much, that is too harsh," he said of the $20 billion cut. "Two million people will lose their benefits. Over 200,000 kids will be knocked out of the free breakfast and lunch program."

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said it's a shame that the Agriculture Committee could not find a more bipartisan agreement on SNAP.

"It's not worthy of our country," Hoyer said. "It's not worthy of the morals of this nation."

The House is expected to debate amendments to the farm bill on Wednesday, and hold a final vote on the bill Thursday.