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Proposed SNAP Cuts Would Affect One in Five Oregonians

April 20, 2012

PORTLAND, Ore. - When one in five Oregonians is enrolled in the program formerly known as food stamps, it's big news when a congressional committee suggests sweeping cuts to the program. It happened this week in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Fifth District Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Oregon, sits on the House Agriculture Committee, which voted this week to recommend cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $36 billion in the next 10 years. That's in line with the GOP budget mandates to reduce spending, although the committee cut even deeper than the $33 billion goal.

The panel also chose to cut only SNAP rather than trimming smaller amounts from other ag-related programs.

For the Oregon Food Bank Network, the vote amounts to "political showmanship," according to Jeff Kleen, its public policy advocate.

"The budget resolution is a political statement. So, when shocking cuts like this are made, it really reflects a set of priorities. We're very concerned when feeding hungry Americans is not a priority of the House Ag Committee."

The Senate is not expected to accept the committee's recommendation when it takes up the House budget proposal, Kleen says. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says Oregon has "significantly higher" participation in the SNAP program than do two-thirds of the states.

In addition to feeding the hungry, Kleen says, SNAP dollars circulate through the economy, spent at grocery stores and farmers markets. Thus, he says, the cuts would affect more than just the recipients.

"The program is bringing in more than $1 billion of federal funds. Those are funds that are coming into Oregon - I would hate to think where our economy would have been over the last year or two or three without that economic-stimulus impact of those dollars."

The Oregon Food Bank Network already is meeting record demand for emergency food, and Kleen says charities would not be able to make up for the loss of so much federal nutrition assistance. The Ag Committee is one of six which the budget plan advanced by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., required to propose cuts in order to prevent other cuts to defense spending.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR