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Food stamp numbers climb in September

Editor’s note: See Clarification on food stamps, published 12/12/2012

The number of Americans receiving food stamps rose from 47.1 million to 47.7 million in September, according to a government report released Friday, Obama Foodorama said in an analysis published Monday.

The cost of the program rose to $6.4 billion for the month of September. The number is likely to rise again, at least temporarily, because some victims of Hurricane Sandy will be eligible for disaster food stamps.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., noted last week that the level of food stamp participation is expected to go down as the recession recedes, but that does not seem likely in the short run.

The food stamp numbers could further complicate the farm bill debate. The Senate-passed farm bill would cut the food stamp program by $4.5 billion per year, while the House Agriculture Committee-passed bill would cut it by $16.5 billion. Stabenow has said she would agree to a cut higher than $4.5 billion, but not as high as the amount in the House bill, and that she would agree to ending categorical eligibility for benefits.

The White House position has opposed cuts to the program, but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said he believes there should be a greater effort to increase efficiency and cut the rate of fraud and abuse, even though that rate is the lowest it has ever been.