SNAP May Scuttle the House Farm Bill

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the new name for what used to be called the Food Stamp program. It represents approximately 80 percent of the funds allocated through the Farm Bill. House leaders are reluctant to bring the FY 12 Farm Bill to the Floor because more conservative members are unhappy with the proposed two percent reduction in SNAP funding (about $16 billion over 10 years) and want to see a more stringent reduction of around $33 billion over the same time period. The greater reduction is more closely aligned with limits in the House budget reconciliation bill.

Over its more than 40 year history, the Farm Bill has used a general 50-50 shared funding allocation approach between nutrition and agriculture programs. However, over the last 10 years, the balance has shifted to a ratio of around 80 percent for nutrition programs and 20 percent for agriculture, crop insurance, conservation, and other related programs. This is also raising speculation that the Farm Bill may need to be divided into two separate legislative packages – one for agriculture and one for nutrition programs.

It remains to be seen how this conundrum will play out in the few remaining legislative days for this fiscal year. The Senate has already passed its Farm Bill – with about 80 percent of the total $969 billion in spending going to meet SNAP provisions. The next move clearly belongs to the House.