House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas said Tuesday a Senate-House conference on the farm bill could end up restoring the food stamp program that was cut to the final measure that will be agreed to by both sides and sent on to the president.
The Oklahoma Republican sent out a statement to Republican members on the committee late Tuesday about what to expect from the conference coming up soon, and specifically the food stamp program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Politico reports
"As you know, SNAP will operate at current levels and within existing rules regardless of farm bill passage," Lucas said. "Separating nutrition programs from the rest of the farm bill does not end SNAP, nor does it preclude SNAP reform from being included in a final conference report."
Lucas also said that he plans to meet with Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia as well as other "interested members" about the food stamp program, which the chairman hopes to bring up in separate bill that will include a number of reforms to the program aimed at helping the poor.
"These are preliminary discussions on a way forward," a spokesperson for Cantor told Politico. "Leader Cantor and Chairman Lucas are working with members interested in responsible reforms to the SNAP programs and will act with dispatch to bring something forward."
"The simple fact is we now have a vehicle with which we can put in place a formal process to send a final 2013 Farm Bill to the President for his signature," Lucas said of the House farm bill pass last week. "Any suggestion to the contrary is playing politics with this process and does a disservice to our farmers and ranchers."
The House passed the farm bill
without the food stamp program included, despite a threatened veto from President Barack Obama. Conservative Republicans have long called for severe cuts to the program and GOP leaders decided to separate the nutrition run by the Agriculture Department from the farm bill.
Lucas's counterpart in the Senate, Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, also told her colleagues that she would initiate the necessary steps Wednesday for a formal conference between the House and Senate to begin, using farm bill passed in the Senate as the starting point.
The Senate version of the bill includes $ 4 billion in cuts to the food stamp program, but that figure is much less than the $20.5 billion in cuts initially included in the House bill.
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