Surprise! Costs Soar for Food Stamp and Farm Bill

With the food stamp and farm becoming a “partisan flash point” on the campaign trail, it is worth highlighting why so many conservatives opposed the typically bipartisan bill.

Promised reforms to the food stamp program, which comprises roughly 80 percent of the bill’s total spending, are falling predictably short:

THEN: The conference report lacks serious reforms.  While it does close the “heat-and-eat” loophole, it does not contain a repeal of broad-based categorical eligibility and states are able to completely bypass asset tests for food stamp applicants.  Additionally, states will be able to continue receiving waivers to undo what minimal work requirements were in place.  (Heritage Action, Jan. 2014)

NOW: Cuts to the nation’s food stamp program enacted this year are only affecting four states, far from the sweeping overhaul that Republicans had pushed, an Associated Press review has found. As a result, it’s unclear whether the law will realize the estimated $8.6 billion in savings over 10 years that the GOP had advertised. … Among the 16 states that allow the practice or some form of it, 12 governors have taken steps to avoid the food stamp cuts. (Associated Press, Sep. 2014)

Same goes for the farm portion of the farm bill: 

THEN: Heritage previously warned “the bigger problem with the CBO estimate is that it presumes that commodity prices will stay at or near record highs.” Indeed, the latest CBO score reflects that trend. … setting the baseline for these commodity prices higher than what would be necessary to cover major losses. These baseline scoring gimmicks could wipe out all the “savings” that negotiators are touting in the conference report. (Heritage Action, Jan. 2014)

NOW: An analysis by economists at The Ohio State University and the University of Illinois of the Department of Agriculture’s latest commodity price forecast shows payments could range as high as $8.4 billion. That’s more than twice the amount that the Congressional Budget Office projected in April would be paid. (CQ, Sep. 2014)

These are important data points for lawmakers to remember as we slowly approach the next reauthorization debate.  It also helps to remember on the campaign trail, where it is most certainly an issue.

In his bid to unseat Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) 77% released an ad explaining the so-called farm bill had been “hijacked” and “turned it into a food stamp bill, with billions more in spending.”  And predictably, the promised reforms to the food stamp program are falling short:

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