The Texas Food Bank Network (TFBN) released estimates of the impact that U.S. House-proposed farm bill H.R. 1947 could have on federal SNAP (food stamps) benefits, the Texas families who rely on them, as well as grocery retailers. 

A June 11 press release by TFBN, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, states the farm bill would cost Texas 482 million meals for the hungry and cut 171,000 Texans off food assistance immediately if it becomes law. In Jefferson County, TFBN estimates that the cuts would result in approximately 13.2 million food retail dollars lost, 5.8 million meals lost and 2,063 recipients forced off SNAP. Cuts in Orange County would result in approximately 3.9 million food retail dollars lost, 1.7 million meals lost and 617 recipients forced off SNAP. In Hardin County, approximately 1.9 million food retail dollars would be lost, 863,000 meals would be lost and 307 recipients would be forced off SNAP.

“We shouldn’t be balancing our budget on the backs of our poorest and most vulnerable citizens,” said Celia Cole, CEO of TFBN. “This is the last place that Congress should be considering cutting money. These Americans are not poor by choice. They have been weathering very serious economic times. Three-quarters of the people on SNAP are either kids or seniors. It’s horrifying that our leaders would think about doing anything that would harm that population when there are lots of other options out there to trim the deficit.”

Additional statistics from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) website say H.R. 1947 would cut almost $21 billion over 10 years in the United States. It would restrict the state Categorical Eligibility option to change asset and gross income tests ($11.6 billion cut).

• 1.8 million individuals per year could lose SNAP benefits (CBO)

• 210,000 low-income children could lose free school meal access.

• State bonuses eliminated for effective SNAP operation ($480 million cut)

TFBN website states that Categorical Eligibility is a policy that allows states to set SNAP eligibility guidelines. 

“It would take away the flexibility that would allow people to have some modest savings and own a decent car so they can get to work or find employment. Those families that are qualifying under those state rules related to assets and vehicles are the ones that would be cut off the program immediately.”

Cole said that if the SNAP cuts are signed into law, it would also place a burden on Texas food banks that are already seeing an increased demand on the economy.

“A cut of that magnitude will be very difficult to make up for,” Cole said. “Obviously our food banks will do what they can to help, but we don’t have the resources to provide the assistance to make up for that kind of cut. It’s going to place a strain on the charities that we serve.”

The cuts would have a significant effect on the retail food industry too, Cole said.

“In addition to helping families weather bad economic times, SNAP helps economies weather bad economic times. SNAP benefits go right back into the economy in the form of retail food purchases, which in turn create jobs. It’s going to be a big hit on every retail food sector as well as on farmers.”

While the bill will no doubt upset many SNAP recipients and retailers, it also is being heralded by some and would be the first farm bill passed since 2008.

“I am proud of the Committee’s effort to advance a farm bill with significant savings and reforms,” said U.S. House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas in press releases released by the Committee on May 10, during the bill’s discussion, and on May 16, following its approval of the farm bill on May 15 by a vote of 36-10. “We achieve nearly $40 billion in savings by eliminating outdated government programs and reforming others. It’s a responsible and balanced bill that addresses American’s concerns about federal spending and reforms farm and nutrition policy to improve efficiency and accountability. I look forward to debating the bill on the House floor this summer.”

According to the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture website, H.R. 1947, also called the FARRM Act, not only includes the first reforms to SNAP since the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, saving more than $20 billion, but it also:

• Saves nearly $40 billion in mandatory funds, including the immediate sequestration of $6 billion

• Repeals or consolidates more than 100 programs

• Eliminates direct payments, which farmers received regardless of market conditions

• Streamlines and reforms commodity policy while also giving producers a choice in how best to manage risk

• Consolidates 23 conservation programs into 13, improving program delivery to producers and saving more than $6 billion

• Builds on previous investments to fruit and vegetable production, farmers markets and local food systems

• Includes several regulatory relief measures to help mitigate burdens farmers, ranchers, and rural communities face.

A similar bill with fewer cuts, S. 954, passed the Senate on Monday evening, June 10, and would cut $4.1 billion over 10 years.

“The Senate cuts are much smaller versus the $20 billion in the House, but we still oppose it because we don’t think it’s a smart way to cut the deficit,” Cole said,

Cole said that if the bill passes the House this summer, SNAP recipients could most likely expect to be taken off food stamps as soon as Oct. 1, which marks the beginning of the next fiscal year.

“People should let their members of Congress know that this is not the way of dealing with the nation’s deficit,” she said. “We encourage them to stand up against these cuts. Members of Congress and the Texas delegation need to know that these are not cuts that most Texans support.”

“Although, the Farm Bill is not perfect, it is a step toward providing American food producers stability in the market,” said Congressman Randy Weber (R-Friendswood), who represents District 14. “I have been in contact with local farmers in my district, listening to their ideas and concerns. I expect that there will be a number of amendments attached to the Farm Bill, and will do my best to vote in the interest of my great district.”

 For more information about H.R. 1947 visit www.agriculture.house.gov/farmbill or www.tfbn.org.