Senate passes farm bill, rejects full SNAP funding

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. Senate passed the Farm Bill, whose final version some Jewish organizations had expressed dismay over because it did not include full funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides food stamps. 

The bill, which passed Thursday with bipartisan support in a 64-35 vote, gives price support and crop insurance programs to farmers and food assistance for low-income families. 

Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, were pushing for full funding for SNAP in the final bill.

An amendment sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) that would have restored $4.5 billion to the SNAP program was defeated Tuesday by a nearly identical margin of 66-33. 

Rabbi David Saperstein, head of the Religion Action Center, said in a press statement that the rejection of the amendment “is deeply disturbing and does not reflect our highest values as a nation. SNAP makes a crucial difference for millions of Americans, all of whom need the helping hand of government to help them lead the lives they seek to live.”  

“The Farm Bill simultaneously restricts food purchases by cutting $4.5 billion from SNAP,” Rabbi Steve Gutow, president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said in a statement. “This will result in, on average, approximately 500,000 households receiving an estimated $90 less in SNAP benefits each month. Having lived on the food stamp budget before as part of our Food Stamp Challenge, I know how scant the food on the current SNAP allotment can be.” 

The legislation now moves to the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives where it is expected that conservative members will call for additional cuts in food stamp programs.  

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