The much awaited-for Farm Bill, debated endlessly by Republicans and Democrats, is now set to become law. It involves billions of dollars and millions of citizens, with changes big and small.
Money would be cut from food stamps—there wasn’t really any debating that. But what was the point of contention was just how much would be lost each year. That figure amounted to $800 million each year, or $8 billion over the next decade. While this number seems big, it’s only about 1% of the total amount, and just 20% of the cut that House Republicans approved last fall.
Another thorny point in the Farm Bill was the “Heat and Eat” loophole, a small part of food stamps that gave extra benefits and assistance to recipients who received money for energy subsidies, or utilities. This point was hotly debated because some recipients who weren’t paying for utilities—if they were bundled into rent—were receiving a token amount and still qualifying for extra benefits. Now, the threshold has been raised to $20. It won’t cut anyone off food stamps, but it’ll mean that citizens in 15 states and DC will no longer receive those benefits.
The bill is, after all, named the Farm Bill, not the food stamps bill. There are numerous clauses and stipulations, but one of the big ones limits the amount of money an individual farmer can receive at $125,000. Previously, this amount was unrestricted in many programs, but there are still generous subsidies available for farmers.
Winners and Losers
Crop insurers, sugar producers and catfish farmers are the main beneficiaries of the Farm Bill thanks to provisions scattered throughout. In particular, the federally subsidized crop insurance program wasn’t cut, and leaves 18 administering companies being paid $1.4 billion each year to sell policies to farmers that pay 62% of their premiums.
However, not everyone stands to gain from the Farm Bill, with food stamps recipients and the poor losing the most. Approximately 850,000 American households—1.7 million people across 15 states—are expected to lose $90 each month.
These cuts, as harsh as they may be, are designed to wean Americans off food stamps and into independent living, but critics of the cuts say that it’s too much, too soon, and the transition needs to be more gradual. They also say that the cuts aren’t accompanied by a wide enough social net that would make the transition easier, and poor people will be left floundering instead of thriving.
With the ink not even dry on the Farm Bill, it’s too soon to predict how the changes will affect Americans. But check back regularly for easy-to-understand updates on everything food stamps.