The Farm Bill is the nation’s agricultural, nutrition and food policy vehicle. It provides funding for SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - also known as food stamps. Vermont U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy on Monday was at a community action agency to discuss his efforts to fight proposed cuts to SNAP and talk about legislation to expand incentives for businesses to donate to food banks.
The five year Farm Bill expired in September 2012 and Congress took short-term action to extend many of its existing programs while a new bill is negotiated. The measure is in conference committee, and a major sticking point is SNAP funding levels. The Senate version cuts $4 billion, while the House version slashes $40 billion from the program.
On Monday, Democratic conference committee member Vermont U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy visited the Central Vermont Community Action Council in Barre. Leahy called SNAP one of the most effective and efficient food programs ever created. He lashed out at those who want to make severe cuts to the program.
Senator Leahy added his indignation over opponents’ spending priorities.
Vermont Governor Democrat Peter Shumlin emphasized that no state has the ability to replace the volume of cuts proposed by House Republicans.
Low-income advocates say hunger is a bellwether for what is happening in society. Central VT Community Action Council Executive Director Hal Cohen noted that safety net services are severely strained.
Vermont Food Bank Director John Sayles explained that they get about 40 percent of their food through two federal programs that are distributed across the state.
Senator Leahy is also introducing an expansion of the Good Samaritan Hunger Relief Tax Incentive Act. It would permanently allow tax deductions to all businesses that donate to food banks, including small businesses and farmers.