Farm Bill cuts about $8 billion in food stamps

Local organizations say it could have a negative impact in La Crosse

President Barack Obama signed the nearly $1 trillion Farm Bill into law Friday afternoon at Michigan State.  

One of the big parts of the Farm Bill includes he food stamp program, which one in seven Americans use. However, this bill cuts more than $8 billion from the program over the next decade.

The cut to food stamps only affects individuals in about 15 states, Wisconsin being one of them.  Government officials said it will help close a loophole that these states use. They are known as “heat and eat” states where food stamp eligibility is based on the disposable income of a household. In order to calculate a disposable income, the state looks at total income and subtracts allowable deductions for essentials, such as rent and utilities.

To make things easier, the state creates a standard predetermined amount for all households who qualify for it and subtract the same amount from your total income, no matter what price you normally pay. All you have to do is prove to the state that you are paying for your utilities by providing one bill as proof. 

The executive director of Wafer Erin Waldhart in La Crosse said it could push more people through her doors at the pantry.

“We serve about 1,600 families in about a month,” said Waldhart. “Every day we have families who walk through our door who struggle where their next meal is going to come from or do they have enough food to put on their table.”

With the new Farm Bill, Wafer could see an increase in traffic.

“I expect with significant cuts, our demand is going to increase and there is going to be a lot more hungry families in the community,” said Waldhart.

Lately, Wafer has been able to provide bigger amounts of fresh produce and dairy products, but that could change.

“I imagine that if more people start coming through the door, those are going to be decreased and I would hate to see that happen,” said Waldhart.

The reduction in food stamps to families could also impact the students at school. Right now, families who are on food stamps automatically qualify for price-reduced meals.

“We’re always providing breakfast, lunch and after-school snacks to our students and so we would like to have as many students as possible come in and eat,” said Joni Ralph, the supervisor of school nutrition for the La Crosse School District.

But if families aren’t receiving benefits like food stamps, that might decrease the amount of students who qualify for the programs.

“Hopefully the impact of the reduction in total amount of food stamp benefits isn’t dramatic and doesn’t make it so that a higher percentage of our students aren’t able to come in and eat,” said Ralph.

Although some food stamp recipients may not feel the cuts right away, places like Wafer might have to start preparing for them sooner, rather than later.

“Actually, I am pretty saddened by the whole thing,” said Waldhart. “I am just fearful of what this means for the families in our community and those that struggle with where they find their food.”

The food stamp cuts impact about 4 percent of people who receive them. It’s important to note that those people will still receive food assistance, but it will just be reduced.