Food stamp program faces cuts as farm bill takes shape

The U.S. Senate took up the farm bill last week but has yet to take a final vote on the legislation. Funding for food stamps is one area of contention.

The overall thrust of the farm bill is to cut spending, and food stamps could take one of the bigger hits.

Nearly 50 million Americans use the program. The Senate bill cuts overall food stamp spending half a percent a year, while the House wants a larger reduction of 3 percent.

Much more discussion on the issue will take place in the Senate before the vote, said Mary Kay Thatcher, a spokeswoman for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

"In general, you have very conservative Republicans who feel like they want way more than a $4 billion cut," Thatcher said, "and in general, very liberal Democrats who want no cuts."

Also, the Senate restricted federal crop insurance support during debate over the farm bill last week, passing an amendment that willl affect about 20,000 U.S. farmers, Thatcher said.

"If you have more than $750,000 in adjusted gross income, you would pay around 35 or 40 percent higher premiums for your crop insurance," Thatcher said. "I think with the crop insurance program being the highest cost item as far as farm programs, that it's likely we're going to continue to see amendments to try to strike some of that assistance."

It's unclear when the Senate will vote on the farm bill. The chamber is in recess until June 3. The House is expected to debate the legislation in June.

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