Congressional bickering may see milk prices rise, SNAP benefits drop

Reported by: Ashley Claster
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Updated: 10/31/2013 9:55 am
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Those receiving food stamps will need to budget smarter after November first. Yet again, Congress cannot agree on a farm bill.
It was extended in 2012, and another deadline approaches.
The inability to pass legislation could affect those dependent upon SNAP, and milk prices, too.

Beginning Friday, families that get food stamp benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will have less money in their accounts to buy groceries.

Melissa Henderson with the South Plains Food Bank said, "that's because a bill from 2009 is expiring October 31st. What that means for SNAP recipients, is that they're going to have about ten dollars per person less in their account. So for a family of three, that's about $29 dollars less in their food stamp account."

The bill that is expiring is called The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It gave families more money during the recession.

"$29 dollars can buy a lot of groceries for a family of three," Henderson said. "So, absolutely, it's going to hit families. And I think that families don't actually know that it's going to be happening. So, there's going to be a lot of surprise at the supermarket registers when they are checking out, and see less funds."

SNAP benefits will be cut no matter what. And now, Congress is in negotiations about future cuts to the ($80-billion dollar-a-year) program.

"It's reforms," Congressman Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) said. "I think that when we use the word "cuts", then I think people think we're taking food away from babies, women and children. And we're not doing that. What we're talking about is reforming those programs. And making sure that the people that are actually getting those benefits actually qualify for those benefits."

The problem is, the House and Senate cannot agree on how much money should be taken away. The House wants almost $40-billion dollars in cuts, and the Senate only wants about four-billion dollars cut.

Jay Yates works with Texas A&M Agrilife. He said, "So in the House, they're basically wanting to roll that standard back to what it was pre-2008. That's why it's such a big cut in their program. Whereas the Senate is basically just cleaning up the program without changing eligibility standards."

The House and Senate need to agree on an amount before the farm bill can be passed.

"So now it's time to see if they can work out their differences. And come up with an agreement that we can both agree on, take it back to our respective House and Senate, then send it over to the president for his signature," Neugebauer said.

Right now, milk lovers in Lubbock are paying about $3.50 for a gallon. But, if the House and Senate do not come to an agreement by January 1st, that price could more than double. Bringing the price up to eight dollars per gallon.

"We're so far apart on this conference committee, getting something done by the end of the year doesn't look good," Yates said.

Yates said if Congress does not finish the bill, dairy supports could expire at the end of the year, sending milk prices sky-rocketing.

"Nobody wants that PR nightmare of not doing anything, and now mothers have to pay ten dollars a gallon for milk," Yates said.

Henderson said that if too much money is cut from the SNAP program, families will want more help from the already hard pressed food banks.

"And we're already serving at capacity with what we can," Henderson said. "So, it's unfortunate that more hungry people in Lubbock, in our own neighborhood, are going to be struggling. It's coming right before the holidays, and it's coming right before it gets cold outside."

Henderson hopes her neighbors in Lubbock will contact Congressman Neugebauer, asking him to find a middle ground between the two proposals... before more people go hungry.

More than half of all Texas SNAP recipients are children. In Lubbock, 58% are children and elderly. 
If the House's proposed cuts are approved, it is estimated that 22-million children and nine-million elderly and disabled in the U.S. will likely experience increased food insecurity.
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