House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., spoke during a Nutrition and Horticulture Subcommittee hearing Thursday. It was another agricultural program audit, this time examining Title IV Nutrition Programs. Lucas noted there are 14 separate titles of the farm bill that cover a wide variety of programs ranging from nutrition to forestry. He believes it's important for all Committee members to understand why current policies are structured as they are. Lucas noted there are proposals for billions and even trillions of dollars worth of cuts to get the country's fiscal house in order, and said farm bill programs will not be spared the chopping block.
Farm and nutrition programs together make up less than 3% of the national budget, so Lucas admitted large cuts will be challenging, meaning the committee will need to find savings throughout Farm Bill programs.
Nutrition programs make up more than 75% of farm bill spending. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is the largest of these programs. According to Lucas, given the current economic environment, it's important to ensure that SNAP benefits are going to those families that truly need support. He says they have a responsibility to ensure that the $69 billion spent on nutrition assistance is used properly and is helping the people it is meant to help.
Subcommittee Chair Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, discussed the dramatic growth in SNAP participation and said costs have strained resources. Pointing to the current budget situation, as Lucas did, Schmidt expressed a responsibility to examine where to reduce funding without compromising the integrity of the program. Ranking Subcommittee Member Joe Baca, D-Calif., pledged to work to ensure adequate nutrition continues to be available to the neediest Americans in the most efficient manner possible. He called federal nutrition programs the primary safety net between hunger and health for millions of Americans.