House Ag concludes top-to-bottom review of SNAP

President-elect Trump recognizes that food stamp and nutrition funding need to be paired with farm bill to ensure passage.

The House Agriculture Committee held its final hearing Nov. 16 in a two-year long top-to-bottom review to examine the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Chairman Michael Conaway (R., Texas) announced he will release a comprehensive report detailing the findings of the hearing series in the coming weeks.

Conaway said after hearing from 55 witnesses at 16 different hearings, these witnesses have expressed an array of opinions on the successes and failures of SNAP at serving people in need of nutritious, wholesome food. “They have shared great accomplishments, but have also pointed out that there is room for improvement,” Conaway said. 

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) shared that many issues have been covered within the SNAP hearings, but the “overwhelming theme of the testimony has shown us that while there are some areas for improvement, SNAP works.”

Republicans have previously attempted to separate the food stamp funding from the farm bill and have also attempted to give states block grants to fund SNAP. “We’ve also heard testimony opposing efforts to block grant SNAP and on the importance of keeping SNAP within the farm bill,” said Peterson. “I hope we can keep these themes in mind as we start work on the farm bill next year.”

It seems president-elect Donald Trump has not completely jumped on-board with the Republican push to pull SNAP out from the farm bill. The Republican Platform released last fall said it would “correct a mistake when the food stamp program was first created in 1964” by separating the administration of SNAP from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Trump’s top agriculture advisor Sam Clovis said at a Farm Foundation Forum in October that said that Trump recognizes there’s no other way to pass the farm bill without the nutrition program included.

As for SNAP cuts, he said it should be a “means tested program.” If the economy is growing, fewer people would be qualifying for food stamps and that would reduce costs. “That’s really the approach that out to be taken,” Clovis said. He explained that if economic growth continues to crawl along at 1.3%, that can’t happen. “The goal ought to be getting people off the dependence of the government,” he said by getting those people back to work.

Conaway noted in his opening statements, “As a taxpayer myself, and as a steward of taxpayer dollars, I want the dollars that go toward SNAP to be well spent. SNAP dollars that are used inefficiently are SNAP dollars that are not feeding people, or helping them learn about healthy eating, or helping them find work and ultimately lifting them off of the program. SNAP dollars should provide the greatest benefit possible and allow for the maximum improvement in nutrition for the households that need them.”

Food deserts

The latest hearing focused on evaluating the innovative strategies retailers are utilizing to improve access to nutritious food. Committee members heard from organizations that are working creatively to provide nutritious food to low-income individuals in low-access areas through online platforms and incentive programs.

“Communities across the country have different needs when it comes to food access. Some individuals have access to a grocer on every street corner, while others are miles away from the nearest store. However, consumers nationwide are able to purchase a variety of items online that can be delivered directly to their homes, and I am excited to hear how this technology can be used to provide SNAP recipients the same sort of access to nutritious food. This capability, along with other innovations like mobile markets and nutrition incentive programs, have great potential to increase access to healthy foods and to more effectively meet the needs of SNAP recipients,” said Conaway.

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