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Merrigan praises Senate efforts at nutrition cuts

Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan

Kathleen Merrigan


Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said today that the Senate is taking a much better approach to cutting food stamp benefits than the House Agriculture Committee did last week in approving a reconciliation proposal to cut the program by more than $33 billion over 10 years, and also said USDA expects markup on Wednesday.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., has described the debate and vote last week as an “exercise” that will not become law because the Senate will not take up a budget resolution. He also said that when the committee marks up, the farm bill cuts will be more fairly distributed among all programs.

In a speech to Wholesome Wave, a group that strives to encourage healthier eating among low-income people, Merrigan said, the cuts in the House reconciliation measure “are deep, damaging and extremely disappointing, totaling $33 billion. Putting the entire burden of deficit reduction o n the backs of those who can least afford it is as unbalanced as it is unjustified. USDA opposes this legislation.”

“The Senate bill is a much more balanced, reasonable and well-targeted approach than that of the House,” Merrigan said. “Yes, there are savings out of nutrition. But the Senate went about their savings in a reasonable way. They closed loopholes. It is evident that the committee worked hard to meet their savings targets while also minimizing any negative impacts on low income families.”

“We congratulate the Senate for moving forward and we expect markup on Wednesday,” she added.

The Food Research and Action Center, Feeding America and other anti-hunger groups oppose all cuts to the food stamp program, which is formally known as the supplemental nutrition assistance program or SNAP.

April 23, 2012 – CBO Cost Estimate House Agriculture Committee Reconciliation Act of 2012