Ahead of the first public meeting of the Senate and House 2013 Farm Bill conference committee members on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today led a coalition of 38 of her Senate colleagues urging the conferees to fight against harmful cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The senators also urged the negotiators to reject all eligibility changes that would prevent millions of children, seniors, and families facing a constant struggle against hunger from accessing nutritious food and hundreds of thousands of low-income children from accessing free school meals.
The 2013 Farm Bill conference committee members are working on a compromise between the two different pieces of legislation passed by the Senate and House earlier this year.
In June, the Senate passed a Farm Bill which included $4.5 billion in cuts to the SNAP program while the House passed legislation last month with even steeper cuts, slashing $40 billion during a 10-year period.
The 39 senators wrote in a letter to Farm Bill Conference Committee Members:
“While we support efforts to improve the integrity of the SNAP program, we encourage conferees to reject all SNAP eligibility changes designed to erect new barriers to participation, preventing millions of seniors, children and families from accessing food assistance.
"The eligibility changes also will mean an additional 280,000 children would lose free school meals because children in SNAP households are automatically eligible for school meals.
"Changes would also increase administrative costs by requiring states to re-determine eligibility for SNAP, even if a household was deemed eligible for other state and/or federal assistance programs… SNAP is a safety net program in the truest sense of the world; there is no other more fundamental human need than food. Please consider the needs of these struggling families, children, and senior citizens as you negotiate the final Farm Bill and the future of the SNAP program.”
The letter was signed by Sens. Charles Schumer, (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Udall (D-CO), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Angus King (I-ME), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Jon Tester (D-MT), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Tim Johnson (D-SD).
“Families who are living in poverty – hungry children, seniors, troops and veterans who are just trying to figure out how to keep the lights on and put food on the table – did not spend this nation into debt, and we should not be trying to balance the budget on their backs,” Gillibrand said.
"They deserve better. Millions more won’t be able to put food on the table if draconian cuts to food stamps become law. I stand with my Senate colleagues urging committee members to reject harmful cuts for the most vulnerable,” she said.