U.S. farm bill would mean loss of food support for thousands of Minnesotans

The U.S. House’s 2013 farm bill passed the House Agriculture Committee last month, and will soon be heard on the House floor. This bill would cut the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, which is also known as Food Support in Minnesota) by more than $20 billion over the next ten years. Nationwide, two million Americans would lose access to food support that makes a real difference to their well-being.

The House farm bill will eliminate a provision that gave flexibility to states, allowing Minnesota to provide SNAP benefits to households that have gross incomes up to 165 percent of the federal poverty line ($32,225 for a family of three) and eliminate the asset limit. Instead, the income limit would drop to 130 percent of the federal poverty line and an asset limit would be reinstated. Asset limits can prevent struggling Minnesotans from getting the help they need, and prevents them from having emergency savings or a reliable car to get to their job. As a result of the proposed changes, roughly 30,000 Minnesotans would lose food assistance and many school children would no longer receive free school meals because their eligibility is tied to the household’s SNAP status.

This week, U.S. House Representatives Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison held a congressional listening session to hear testimony from state and local officials, SNAP participants, and the faith community about the upcoming proposed cuts in the bill.

These cuts are especially damaging as many in the state are still recovering from the economic downturn. Currently, one in ten Minnesotans, including families, seniors, people with disabilities and other low-income adults, use SNAP to provide food for their families. Forty percent of adults eligible for SNAP are in households with children. Many are working families, with two-thirds of these families reporting income from work, earning an average of $1,609 per month. That only adds up to $19,308 for year-round work.

Since families with these low earnings struggle to meet basic needs, SNAP helps them meet a basic food budget. On average, SNAP provides about $8 a day for a household and $4 for a person. This is a huge boost to their purchasing power and allows them to buy healthy foods that will help allow adults to succeed in the workforce and children to focus while in school. SNAP also allows seniors to have enough to eat. Minnesota Public Radio recently interviewed a senior from Chaska who said she would have to ration her food without SNAP.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is an important support for families in Minnesota and a boost to the state economy. The cuts proposed in the House farm bill are the wrong thing to do at a time when many Minnesotans still struggle to put food on the table.

-Caitlin Biegler

About Clark Goldenrod

Clark Goldenrod is the Minnesota Budget Project's policy analyst.
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