The U.S. House of Representative voted Wednesday to approve a new farm bill after a two-year standoff. It cuts $8 billion over the next decade from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, but the brunt of those cuts won’t be felt in South Florida.
The food stamp program accounts for almost 80 percent of the current farm bill. With pressure to reduce spending, it was inevitable that the program would be scaled back.
Much of the money was shaved from an initiative called “Heat and Eat” which helps people, mostly in northern areas, afford utilities. Only 15 states participate in that initiative; Florida is not one of them.
The new bill also prevents the Department of Agriculture from spending money to advertise the assistance program.
Florida Representative Ted Deutch of Broward and Palm Beach County, the only South Floridian to vote against the bill, said this bill saves money at the expense of the poor.
“A lot of people have suggested to me this really is about compromise, and I agree with them, but legislation is not just about compromise, it is about priorities,” he says.
But Democrat Rep. Joe Garcia of Miami-Dade County says this compromise was ultimately a good thing.
“This is not a perfect farm bill, but we needed a farm bill,” says Garcia. “We kept food stamps ... [not] as much as we had before and hopefully there will be a way to put it back, but clearly this is the best we could get."
To offset some of the hardship on lower-income families, the bill increases funding for food banks by $200 million.
The farm bill will now move on to the Senate for final approval -- where it is expected to pass.