Aw, SNAP: Obama Threatens Farm Bill Veto Over Cuts to Food Assistance

The White House suggests focusing on crop insurance and subsidies instead of fraying the social safety net.

Cuts to the Farm Bill's social progams are unpopular outside of Congress. (Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Jun 17, 2013· 1 MIN READ
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

SNAP: The Senate cut it; the House wants to cut it even more. But according to a new report from the Associated Press, neither house is going to slash real-world spending on food assistance if they pass a Farm Bill that guts the former food stamp program—President Obama will veto it.

According to a statement from the White House, SNAP is “a cornerstone of our nation’s food assistance safety net.” Rather than gutting the program, in which nearly 48 million Americans are now enrolled, “The White House argued that the House should make deeper cuts to farm subsidies like crop insurance instead,” the AP reports.

The SNAP portion of the Farm Bill may dominate the debate in Congress, but the White House’s suggestion is in line with many critics of the 2013 bill. Crop insurance, which protects farmers from the economic damage of crop failures with subsidized plans, overwhelmingly favors corporate agriculture. Between crop insurance and price supports, the Farm Bill could hand out as much as $1 trillion to Big Ag—a figure bandied about by liberal and conservative groups alike.

But instead of working to refocus subsidy programs so they benefit the small farmers for whom an early frost or a dramatically wet or dry season isn’t just a write-off on a spreadsheet, Congress has the poor in its crosshairs. The Senate’s version of the bill cuts $4.1 billion over 10 years, while the House agriculture committee proposes to slash even more—a dramatic $21 billion over the next decade.

Before Obama’s veto threat, the outlook on changing crop insurance policies appeared grim: The Senate voted against a proposal to end crop insurance for tobacco farmers. Subsidies for the maligned crop were supposed to end back in 2004, but, according to the Environmental Working Group, “taxpayers gave tobacco farmers another $276 million in crop insurance subsidies—on top of $1.3 billion in other farm subsidies,” between 1995 and 2011.

But with the President’s veto pen looming, maybe Congress will finally manage to redirect some of their apparent ire for the poor onto Big Ag.