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Super committee plans markup, farm bill not yet ready

The super committee in charge of deficit reduction is preparing for a public session markup early next week, the National Journal reported today, but the farm bill continues to be developed behind closed doors.

Several sources told the National Journal that the super committee’s markup session is required and must be public. It is still unclear what day the mark up session would be held, but the super committee is supposed to vote on the proposal no later than Wednesday.

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla.
Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., appeared determined to move forward with a program based on target prices, even though growers of northern crops said that setting target prices too high would destroy the planting flexibility that has marked American agriculture since at least the 1996 Freedom to Farm bill, sources said.

On scheduling, there were reports that the bill might be sent to the super committee anywhere from Thursday to next week.

The Food Research and Action Center, the nation’s most prominent anti-hunger group, said that a deficit reduction proposal under consideration that would limit states’ ability to coordinate the low-income home energy assistance program (LIHEAP) and supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) benefits would reduce SNAP benefits for households receiving the smallest, least adequate LIHEAP benefits.

LIHEAP is a federally-funded block grant to assist low-income households with the highest energy needs, but FRAC said in a news release that LIHEAP funding is too low to adequately support the majority of low-income households’ utility budgets, and that many LIHEAP families experience hunger.

Under a SNAP “Heat and Eat” option, the District of Columbia and 14 states’ LIHEAP agencies provide small cash LIHEAP benefits directly to SNAP households.

Ellen Vollinger
Ellen Vollinger
“This targeted LIHEAP benefit helps meet LIHEAP’s requirement for outreach, simplifies the SNAP shelter deduction calculation, and, by increasing SNAP benefits to more realistic levels, alleviates some of the untenable ‘heat or eat’ choices that households face,” FRAC said.

Ellen Vollinger, a FRAC official, said that although this change has been described as “technical,” to low-income people it would mean “lost real meals.”

Vollinger said she did not know if the agriculture leaders are planning to use the LIHEAP-SNAP provision as a way to achieve the entire $4 billion in cuts in nutrition programs over 10 years that they have targeted. She said FRAC is not willing offer suggestions for cuts, as there is so much hunger in the country that nutrition programs should not be cut at all.

Correction


Contrary to a story in The Hagstrom Report on Wednesday, the commodity groups pushing for higher target prices do not include cotton. The United States lost a World Trade Organization case involving cotton subsidies to Brazil, and there is an attempt within the development of the farm bill to change the cotton program so that it meets WTO standards.