Save SNAP for Farm Bill, Not Disaster Aid Package: Stabenow

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By Teaganne Finn

The ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee told Bloomberg Government she will oppose an $81 billion disaster aid package if it includes any provision that would use funds from the supplemental nutrition assistance program to offset disaster relief.

The House passed a disaster aid package ( H.R. 4667) on Dec. 21 that includes language that sets up a “National Accuracy Clearinghouse (NAC),” a system aimed at making sure that Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients are not collecting benefits in multiple states.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, told Bloomberg Government on Jan. 4 that the savings from the new system would offset other agriculture disaster relief funding. One provision in the bill that could take savings from SNAP is lifting the funding cap on livestock gross margin insurance, which would benefit dairy producers.

“I am not going to support any changes in SNAP to pay for disaster assistance,” said Stabenow. “It is a complete nonstarter using food assistance money for disaster relief.” She added that anything done to SNAP needs to be done in the 2018 farm bill.

However, Stabenow said she would not necessarily be opposed to looking at a system like NAC, as long as it is tied to the farm bill.

The disaster package, which hasn’t been passed by the Senate, would include $2.6 billion for the Department of Agriculture to address crop losses such as those affecting Florida citrus growers who were hit by Hurricane Irma last summer. The USDA estimated fruit losses of as much as 100 percent in some areas, along with the increased spread of citrus greening, a bacterial disease.

Senators have not said when they will take up the House-passed $81 billion disaster aid bill, and Democrats have called for changes to the package including waiving a requirement for Puerto Rico to match some federal relief funds. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said disaster funds could be tied to a spending bill, although he did not specify whether that meant a continuing resolution to fund the government past Jan. 19 or a later omnibus spending bill.

With assistance from Jack Fitzpatrick

To contact the reporter on this story: Teaganne Finn in Washington at tfinn@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at phendrie@bgov.com

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