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SNAP program continues in spite of expiration of 2008 farm bill
Although many programs may be impacted by Congress’ failure to reauthorize the Bill in a timely manner, SNAP continues to operate without interruption
October 08, 2012
All eyes are on Capitol Hill as the 2008 Farm Bill remains stymied by Congress, leaving environmental, nutrition, farm, and conservation programs in jeopardy.
“Many programs and policies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture were authorized under the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Farm Bill) through Sept. 30, 2012,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, on Oct. 1. “These include a great number of critical programs impacting millions of Americans, including programs for farm commodity and price support, conservation, research, nutrition, food safety, and agricultural trade.”
One program of great concern is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. As of Oct. 1, one in five Oregonians — or 445,500 households — receive SNAP benefits. The SNAP standards are directed by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Services.
According to Belit Burke, SNAP Program Manager for Oregon, the Child Nutrition Program was reauthorized last year, and WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for women, infants, and children) could be affected if the Farm Bill wasn’t reauthorized, “Although they did do some continuous resolution before they went home, so we are good for the next six months.”
“SNAP continues to operate without interruption,” said SNAP Regional Division Director, Special Nutrition Programs and SNAP Offices, Dennis Stewart. “This is because the authority for this mandatory program continues through the appropriation process. Current authority for SNAP and the Food Nutrition Act of 2008 would normally lapse at the end of federal fiscal year 2012 if the Farm Bill is not extended. However, since Congress continues to provide funding for the program, the authority to operate the program is assumed to continue.”
Burke said that prior to the passing of the 2008 Farm Bill, the program did a contingency plan in case a farm bill wasn’t passed or it wasn’t moved forward.
“There would have to be a plan put in place by each state on how they would shut down their program if they decided not to fund it anymore,” said Burke.
Without a new farm bill or an extension, many discretionary programs would not appear to have statutory authority to receive appropriations in future years. However, the Government Accountability Office has said that there is no constitutional or statutory requirement that an appropriation must be preceded by an act that authorizes the appropriation. Many of the farm bill’s nutrition programs rely on annual appropriations regardless of whether they use mandatory or discretionary funds. Thus, a regular appropriation could be sufficient to continue most of the major programs’ operations if the 2008 Farm Bill expires. Exceptions include a farmers’ market nutrition program for seniors, and a few pilot or other small nutrition programs.
“We must ensure that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) remains available to families experiencing the greatest need,” commented Oregon Representative Greg Walden. “However, SNAP spending over the last ten years has nearly tripled, and loopholes have allowed many to qualify who should not even be eligible under the program's guidelines.
“One Ohio woman received $500 per month in SNAP benefits, despite having $80,000 in the bank and a $300,000 house that was fully paid for with a Mercedes in the driveway. A lottery winner in Michigan was allowed to continue receiving benefits even after winning $1 million. We have to stop these abuses. Though these are just a few bad examples compared to the majority of SNAP beneficiaries who rely on the program, they highlight the need to target fraud and ensure access to Oregonians with the greatest need. The federal government needs to tighten its belt just like families all over Oregon are doing. It's simply not fair that others are exploiting the system at the cost of those in need.”
To be eligible for SNAP, families must earn less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level, among other factors. For a family of four, the income limit is less than $3,554 per month. Every year, the federal government makes changes to the calculations used to determine how much an eligible person may receive in SNAP benefits.
“The long-term farm bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee brings much-needed reforms to SNAP, saving taxpayers more than $16 billion while still making sure the neediest families are helped, said Walden. “I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to pass a long-term, bipartisan farm bill, and will continue to work to retain the reforms included in the House version.”
For general questions regarding SNAP benefits call: Christy Sinatra at 503-569-3479 or e-mail her at: Christy.firstname.lastname@example.org
For the closest DHS office call: 1-800-SAFENET or www.oregon.gov/dhs.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s office: 202-720-4623
Greg Walden’s office: 202-226-7338