MARY CLARE JALONICK Associated Press
WASHINGTON - The White House is threatening to veto the House version of a massive, five-year farm bill, saying food stamp cuts included in the legislation could leave some Americans hungry.
The House is preparing to consider the bill this week. The legislation would cut $2 billion annually, or around 3 percent, from food stamps and make it harder for some people to qualify for the program. Food stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, cost almost $80 billion last year, twice the amount it cost five years ago.
The Senate passed its version of the farm bill last week with only a fifth of the amount of those cuts, or about $400 million a year, with the support of the administration.
The White House said in its statement Monday that food stamps are "a cornerstone of our nation's food assistance safety net." The administration argued that the House should make deeper cuts to farm subsidies like crop insurance instead.
The bill, which costs nearly $100 billion a year, would save a total of about $4 billion annually, including the food stamp cuts. It would eliminate some subsidies while creating others, raising subsidy levels for several crops. It would expand the current crop insurance program and also create a new type of crop insurance that would kick in sooner than the paid insurance farmers have now.
Farm-state lawmakers are aggressively lobbying their colleagues to gain enough support for the bill, which is expected to lose votes from liberal Democrats who think the food stamp cuts are too high and conservative Republicans who think they are too low.
Conservative groups have been pressuring Republicans to vote against the farm bill, saying it is too costly. One such group, Heritage Action, has paid for radio ads targeting specific lawmakers, including House Agriculture Committee chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla.
The bill's supporters got a major boost last week when House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he would vote for the bill. Boehner has opposed previous farm bills and said he still has concerns, but said he wanted to move the bill to House-Senate conference.
House members have filed more than 200 amendments to the bill, which is expected to come to the floor later this week.