Bill to cut nutrition spending by $40 billion introduced

by Jay Sjerven
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WASHINGTON – Representative Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, on Sept. 16 introduced the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act (H.R. 3102) that aims to cut about $40 billion over 10 years from federal nutrition assistance programs. The bill was referred to the House Committees on Agriculture, Foreign Affairs and Education and the Workforce, and it was expected the House leadership will move the legislation forward quickly.

The bill fills the void left in the “farm-only” farm bill passed by the House before the August congressional recess. The “farm-only” farm bill was passed without a nutrition title after the Federal Agricultural Reform and Risk Management Act approved by the House agriculture committee was rejected by the full House.

FARRM foundered because several conservative Republican members of the House voted against the measure because they thought it didn’t cut deeply enough nutrition spending, and most Democrats opposed the legislation because they thought the cuts were too severe. Democrats who objected to the extent of the nutrition cuts but who were prepared to vote for FARRM just to get a farm bill to conference with the Senate, which had passed its bipartisan farm bill in June, withdrew their support ahead of the vote because of amendments tacked on that would have imposed restrictions or requirements on recipients of benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Democrats viewed as excessive or demeaning.

The House leadership has held back from naming members to negotiate with the Senate on crafting a common farm bill that would be referred back to both houses of Congress for a final vote. The first wanted action on the nutrition bill and were expected to include this measure in any conference with the Senate.

FARRM as passed by the House agriculture committee but rejected by the full House had proposed about $21 billion in cuts to federal nutrition programs, whereas the Senate’s farm bill proposed cuts of about $4 billion.
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