WASHINGTON - The House Agriculture Committee unveiled a draft of the farm bill, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, that seeks to reduce spending by $3.5 billion a year.
The House Agriculture Committee is scheduled to vote on the draft bill on Wednesday, and food stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), will likely be a sticking point. The Senate passed its version of the farm bill (S. 3240) on June 21.
The draft bill seeks to reform SNAP by closing loopholes, cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse of the program and ultimately save taxpayers more than $16 billion, according to the committee. "The legislation strengthens program integrity and accountability while better targeting the federal nutrition programs to serve those in need of assistance."
The committee€™s draft bill would also seek to strengthen the integrity and accountability of SNAP by improving "the quality of participating retail stores." The bill would require participating retailers to "stock more staple foods like fruits and vegetables" and ban stores from participating if they have "significant sales of prohibited items like liquor and tobacco" (i.e., liquor stores). The draft bill also includes provisions "to further monitor and prevent fraud at retail stores, and allows more service options for homebound elderly or disabled SNAP recipients."
Another provision would end SNAP benefits for people who win the lottery: "SNAP recipients with substantial lottery or gambling winnings will lose benefits immediately after receiving winnings. Winners will be prevented from receiving any benefits if they do not meet the financial requirements of SNAP."
Although both the House and Senate farm bills span a five-year period, The Associated Press writes that the Congressional Budget Office measures the effects over 10 years: The House bill would save taxpayers more than $35 billion, the Senate bill $23 billion.
"The Senate derives its food stamp savings mainly by cracking down on fraud and on a practice of some states of giving households as little as $1 a year in heating assistance, even when they don€™t directly pay for heating, to make them eligible for increased food benefits. The House also stops this practice while restricting a system wherein states can provide food benefits to those whose assets exceed legal limits for food stamps as long as they receive some other welfare benefit. It ends Agriculture Department bonus payments to states that increase food stamp registrations," writes the AP.