your connection to The Boston Globe

House panel cuts food stamp funds

Plan would take aid away from 300,000 people

WASHINGTON -- The House Agriculture Committee approved budget reductions yesterday that would take food stamps away from an estimated 300,000 people and could cut off school lunches and breakfasts for 40,000 children.

The cuts were approved as the government reported that the number of people who are hungry because they cannot afford to buy enough food rose to 38.2 million in 2004, an increase of 7 million in five years. The number represents nearly 12 percent of US households.

''If there are cuts to be made, why should we make them on food stamps?" said Representative David Scott, Democrat of Georgia. ''This is the meanest cut of all."

The cuts, approved by the Republican-controlled committee on a party-line vote, are part of an effort by the House GOP to curb federal spending by $50 billion. The food and agriculture cuts would reduce spending by $3.7 billion, including $844 million on nutrition, $760 million on conservation, and $212 million on payments to farmers.

''The fact is, our country is going broke," said Representative John Boehner, Republican of Ohio. ''We're spending money we don't have and passing it onto our kids, and at some point, somebody's got to say, 'Enough's enough.' "

The $574 million reduction in food stamp spending would affect families who receive food stamps because they receive other noncash government assistance. The change is estimated to eliminate up to 300,000 people from the program.

The restriction could also take free meals away from an estimated 40,000 schoolchildren, because children in many states are automatically eligible for school meals when they get food stamps, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The White House proposed the restriction earlier this year.

The bill would also raise the waiting period for food stamps for legal immigrants from five to seven years.

Senate GOP leaders are seeking to curb spending by $39 billion, and have been more reluctant to cut government benefit programs. The Senate Agriculture Committee spared food stamps in approving a similar budget bill last week and voted for greater reductions in farm payments and conservation.

Also yesterday, the House voted 318 to 63 to approve the final version of a $100 billion spending bill for food and farm programs for the budget year that began Oct. 1. The Senate must approve the measure before it can go to President Bush for his signature. The bill delays until 2008 a meat labeling law that was to have gone into effect last year. Pressure from meatpackers and supermarkets has blocked the labels, which would tell shoppers what country their meat comes from.

The measure also overrides a court ruling on whether products with the ''USDA Organic" seal can contain small amounts of nonorganic ingredients. An appeals court decided earlier this year that nonorganic substances, such as vitamins or baking powder, are not allowed in food bearing the seal. But more than 200 companies and trade groups said they cannot make organic yogurt and many other products without the ingredients in question, and congressional negotiators agreed.

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives