Agriculture Secretary talks food stamp reform in new farm bill - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Agriculture Secretary talks food stamp reform in new farm bill

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Congress is set to take up renewal of the $387 billion Farm Bill this week. The most controversial proposal in the legislation is an increase in work requirements for food stamp recipients. The US Department of Agriculture oversees the massive SNAP benefits entitlement program in which some 40 million Americans are currently enrolled.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise said in a news conference that he believed the high number of people still dependent on government aid is inconsistent with America's falling unemployment rate.

"We now see companies looking to hire people, and that's a great thing. But at the same time, we see a record number of people, a ballooning number of people on SNAP."

Under their proposal, all work capable adults between the ages 18 and 59 will need to spend at least 20 hours a week in workforce development in order to continue receiving benefits. Such a requirement is estimated to force roughly two million people out of the program.

US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue spoke with News 5 about the Farm Bill during a visit to Colorado Springs this week.

"The generous, compassionate Americans who provide their tax dollars for people to help people when they don't have enough food believe that they ought to be either working in some sort of training to be in a job," Perdue said. 

He also wants people to know that there is much more in that bill that doesn't grab headlines. For example, hundreds of millions of dollars are proposed to expand various agriculture trade programs in hopes of expanding American exports. Perdue explained that low crop prices are currently hurting American farmers.

"The main thing is profitability. How can we increase our trade to get better crop prices," Perdue said. "The crop prices are terrible right now; dairies are under a lot of duress as far as excess milk production so profitability is the main thing."

The bill also commits money to help address opioid abuse in rural communities and spends $50 million on direct aid to disadvantaged farmers, veterans and others. The Farm Bill comes up for renewal every five years.

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