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News Brief

May 29, 2024 |  By: Deborah Van Fleet - Public News Service

Despite higher food insecurity, House Farm Bill would cut SNAP benefits

food bank

By Deborah Van Fleet - Public News Service

Food insecurity is up in Nebraska and most parts of the country, according to the nonprofit Feeding America but the U.S. House Agriculture Committee's 2024 Farm Bill includes significant cuts to the Supplemental Food Assistance Program.

The House proposal would remove a 2018 Farm Bill requirement for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reassess the cost for a frugal, healthy meal every five years to update its Thrifty Food Plan , which is used to determine benefit levels.

Eric Savaiano, Food and Nutrition Access program manager for Nebraska Appleseed, said it would prevent the USDA from considering market forces, what foods people actually buy and how much time they have to prepare them.

"If they remove the ability of USDA to make these changes, we will lose more and more touch with the actual habits and patterns of buying things in American society," Savaiano contended. "SNAP will not keep up with that, and likely result in people having fewer benefits."

Before the 2018 Farm Bill, the USDA had not updated the actual cost of meals in its Thrifty Food Plan since 1975 and SNAP recipients received only inflation-related cost-of-living increases. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the House proposal would amount to a $30 billion cut to SNAP over the next 10 years. Nebraska could lose as much as $110 million in SNAP benefits between 2027 and 2033.

Savaiano stressed the effect of the House's recommended changes would worsen over time. He pointed out with food insecurity up 37% in Nebraska -- and even more for children and Black and Hispanic families -- it is a good thing they would not feel the changes immediately. He added for those with children, there are helpful programs available this summer.

"The summer nutrition programs that were just authorized," Savaiano noted. "Nebraska is going to be hosting Summer EBT this year, which gives families a small boost to spend on groceries; opportunities to get food boxes and things like that."

Savaiano added the Senate version of the 2024 Farm Bill does not include cuts to the SNAP program, so there's a chance the House cuts will not make it into the final bill.