Farm bill with food stamp cuts could hurt locals


By Joe Moskowitz
President Obama signed a $956 billion dollar farm bill into law last Friday, a measure that supporters and opponents say could have profound impact on the Catskill Region.
Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, voted against the bill, while Senator Shuck Schumer, also a Democrat, voted in favor of it.
Gillibrand opposed it because of cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), often known as food stamps.
Eight billion, six hundred million dollars will be slashed from the program over a 10-year phase in period. It will affect people in just 15 states and the District of Columbia. One of those states is New York and of the 850,000 people who will be affected, 300,000 will be from the Empire State. The average monthly loss of benefits will be about $90. It will be phased in over 10 years, but it follows cuts in the program last November.
The reason New York is one of the affected states is because of a loophole known as, “Heat and Eat.” A person’s income is those states is based in part on whether they or the landlord are responsible for paying utility bills. That helps determine how much tenants will receive in food stamps.
Senator Gillibrand said she couldn’t support the bill when it takes food off the tables of children, seniors, and veterans while providing handouts to corporations.
Senator Schumer said he opposes the SNAP reductions and will try to get the funding restored. But he said it will provide lower insurance premiums for dairy farmers with fewer than 200 cows. He also said it will allow fruit and vegetable farmers to get crop insurance. It will help farmers with specialty products, like artisanal cheese market their product globally. And he said $20 million is being set aside for maple product research and marketing.
Dean Norton, president of the New York Farm Bureau, praised the bill. He said it would help economic development in upstate New York.