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posted: 12/23/2013 5:00 AM

Food stamps serve a vital need

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Congress is completing its negotiations on the Farm Bill. There has been much talk growing out of these negotiations about the need to cut funding for food stamps, also called SNAP, for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. While federal funding for this program needs to be reviewed and scrutinized for opportunities to improve efficiencies and reduce fraud, meat-cleaver cuts, like the kind being proposed in the House, are mean-spirited and misguided.

It's still difficult to find jobs that pay enough for families to afford to feed themselves nutritiously. The idea that all people who use food stamps are unemployed and poor by choice is plainly wrong. Many of those who benefit from SNAP are children.

A suggestion to lawmakers seeking to make difficult resource allocation decisions is to look elsewhere in the Farm Bill for potential cuts. The $25 billion in subsidies to corporate agribusinesses is a great place to start. According to the USDA, the majority of these farm subsidies go to commercial farmers with an average income of $199,975 and net worth of nearly $2 million.

Even the conservative Heritage Foundation has this to say: "Most debates over federal programs force lawmakers to balance a program's social benefits with the costs of financing it, but current U.S. farm policies serve no legitimate purpose. They burden American families with higher taxes and higher food prices. ... They are falsely promoted as saving the family farm and protecting the food supply. In reality, they are America's largest corporate welfare program."

Should we cut benefits for poor, hungry families? Or wealthy, corporate farmers? I am asking my congressman, Peter J. Roskam, to vote to keep food stamp funding at current levels, or at least to make only modest cuts, and that he work to end unfair tax subsidies for affluent agribusinesses.

Robert E. Gorman Jr.


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