Sen. Sherrod Brown Hopeful For Farm Bill Passage

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House and Senate negotiators are crafting a compromise farm bill, including cuts to the food stamp program.

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown said he hopes lawmakers can reach an agreement.

"It speaks well of our society for all these years we've combined these farm programs with nutrition programs in a bipartisan way that served our state and country well,” Brown said.

The talks opened Wednesday afternoon, just two days before food stamp recipients will see a separate, unrelated cut in their monthly benefits. On Friday, a temporary benefit from the 2009 stimulus that boosted food stamp dollars will expire.

According to the Agriculture Department, that means a family of four receiving food stamps will receive $36 less a month.

Food stamps now cost almost $80 billion a year. The House farm bill would cut food stamps by $4 billion annually, for a total of nearly $40 billion over the decade, and change eligibility and work requirements. The Senate bill would cut a tenth of that amount, for a total of $4 billion over the next 10 years.

“It is mostly administrative cuts,” Brown said. “I didn't even want to do those because I think it still creates some hardship in terms of outreach and eligibility but we couldn't get a bill passed without some reform to the program that cuts a little deeper than I think it should have.”

The proposed cuts come amid a 77 percent increase in enrollment for food stamps since 2007, according to Bloomberg.  A recent U.S. Census report says a greater share of Ohioans are living in poverty than before the Great Recession.  One in six Ohioans were living in poverty last year.  The state’s poverty rate increased from 13.1 percent in 2007 to 16.3 percent in 2012.

The five-year farm bill totals about $500 billion.