By Chris Engelhardt
Queens elected officials blasted House Republicans last week for passing a revised farm bill that stripped funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, but retained agriculture subsidies.
The House approved the legislation by a vote of 216-208 July 11, removing funding for SNAP as well as the Emergency Food Assistance Program, also a federal program, which provides emergency food to low-income individuals.
The original farm bill was voted down by the House June 20 234-195. The House acted after the Senate passed a five-year farm bill June 10 to reauthorize agricultural programs, with a final vote of 66-27.
The original bill — which would have slashed more than $20 billion from the food stamp program — was met with criticism from U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), who joined representatives from Food Bank for New York City at a press conference in June to decry the proposed cuts.
Queens officials, including Crowley, expressed concern over last week’s vote and called the decision unacceptable.
“For decades, Congress has agreed that as we make investments to help American farmers, we must also help put some of that food on the tables of our most vulnerable,” he said. “Unfortunately, that long-standing agreement was broken when House Republicans brought to the floor a bill to renew our farm assistance programs, but not our nutrition assistance programs.
“That’s not acceptable,” he continued. “It’s not humane and I will keep up the fight to make sure Congress focuses as much on helping hungry children, families and seniors as it does our farming programs.”
Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) decried the decision and said it “stabs in the back” millions of people who depend on the programs, including the poor and elderly.
“After the original farm bill was defeated last month, I applauded the House for throwing it in the trash, and that’s where this revised measure belongs as well,” Meng said. “I support the agricultural industry and will continue to do so, but I refused to support a draconian bill that does not fund food stamps and fails to address our nation’s agriculture policy in the proper way.”
According to Crowley, nearly 2 million residents in the city depend on SNAP. The city may lose an estimated 200 million meals for low-income New Yorkers.
The SNAP program expires Sept. 30, according to a spokesman for Crowley. It is up to Congress to reinstate it.
Reach reporter Chris Engelhardt by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.