Lawmakers weigh cuts and increases to government nutrition programs in 2023 Farm Bill

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are debating how to help feed the hungry. Some said they want to cut government assistance, but others argued it is critical to the health of Americans.

This is part of a larger discussion around the 2023 Farm Bill, which funds programs that help combat food insecurity.

In a Senate committee room, Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) relayed a story from 2017. It was before he was a senator as Congress was debating the last Farm Bill.

“In an act of civil disobedience, I actually got arrested protesting some of the cuts around food insecurity,” he recalled. “It’s good to be here and to have a voice and to be sitting at the table to help write the bill.”

Helping write the bill means funding the SNAP program, which many still refer to as food stamps.

“Food insecurity is an all too familiar experience in rural and urban parts of my state,” Sen. John Boozman (R)-Arkansas, said. “Thankfully, the nutrition programs that this committee authorizes, programs that I’ve been proud to support, are there to provide help.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture runs SNAP. Officials there said the stakes are high because poor nutrition is the leading cause of illness in the U.S. It’s associated with more than half a million deaths per year, according to the written testimony.

Experts explained people who say they have trouble affording food are also at a higher risk of developing conditions like obesity, Diabetes and hypertension.

“It is imperative that we scale up the nutrition programs that we know are working, that are evidence-based, that are making a difference in people’s health and wellbeing,” Sen. Cory Booker (D) New Jersey, said.

Some Republicans, on the other hand, want to reform and cut parts of the SNAP program.

“I’m going to be interested to see how the ‘Farm Bill’ has turned into a nutrition bill,” Sen. Mike Braun (R) Indiana, said.

Five members of the GOP sent a letter to President Biden. It urges the president to “enact work requirements as a feature of welfare reform.”

The current farm bill and those SNAP benefits expire at the end of September, if lawmakers don’t act.

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