U-S Ag Secretary not in favor of splitting food stamps out of farm bill

Ag/Outdoor, News

May 13th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Some federal officials suggest the Farm Bill should be split in two, separating agricultural policies from SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps. U-S Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, argues that food stamps play a big role in ag income and the two should remain united under one piece of legislation. Vilsack says, “When 15-cents of every food dollar that’s spent in the grocery store ends up ultimately in farmers’ pockets, the reality is that the safety net, the nutrition assistance program, is also part of the overall stabilizing farm prices and making sure we have adequate income for our producers to keep them in business.”

Some Washington leaders have suggested the coalition between agricultural and nutrition interests no longer works, but Vilsack disagrees.  “When 15% of America’s population lives in rural America and 85% lives in urban and suburban America and there’s such a disconnect oftentimes between folks who consume and folks who produce our food,” Vilsack says, “it may be difficult in the future if you separate the nutrition programs and the farm programs to get a farm bill done.” Vilsack understands why some have suggested splitting SNAP and ag programs, given the difficulty in passing the last Farm Bill.

“I would sincerely hope that we wouldn’t try to disconnect the two because I think it would make it very difficult to get farm bills and farm programs supported in Congress,” he says. Vilsack argues the nutrition programs provide a safety net for farm income. SNAP accounts for the largest portion of the Farm Bill, or about 768-billion dollars over ten years. Since the 2008 Farm Bill, funding for SNAP has almost doubled.

(Radio Iowa)