“SNAP is essential in protecting the most vulnerable citizens during tough times, but we need to have a complete understanding of its mission and purpose.” That was the message from House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway this week as the committee began its top-to-bottom review of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps.
SNAP is now the largest welfare program in both the number of recipients and the amount of spending, yet the program lacks a clear mission, and data reveals that it is not helping to lift people out of poverty. Instead, it has become an income support for many.
A thorough, thoughtful review
Chairman Conaway, a CPA by trade, is committed to begin a top to bottom review of the program with no preconceived notions or legislative agenda. At the full committee hearing on Wednesday, he said the committee wants the committee to “strengthen the program so it can serve as a tool to help individuals move up the economic ladder,” and doesn’t want SNAP to “hold people back from achieving their potential.”
The Ag Committee is in the unique position of being post-recession and post-reauthorization. Rather than making haphazard reforms under a time-crunch, Chairman Conaway and Nutrition Subcommittee Chairwoman Jackie Walorski have proactively begun a thorough review, beginning with a fact-finding series of hearings this week exploring the history of the program as well as the dynamics and characteristics of its recipients.
While the economy has changed and other welfare programs have adjusted to meet changing needs, it does not appear that SNAP has. Overall unemployment has fallen, yet the number of long-term unemployed remains high. The long and slow recovery since 2009 brought in a new group of healthy, working-age recipients to the program, who in the past had not used SNAP. This is a new dynamic not previously experienced following other recessions when periods of unemployment were much shorter. It is clear the needs of the SNAP population have changed, and now is the time for the SNAP program to change accordingly.
Source: Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service; Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families; Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration; Social Security Administration, Office of Retirement and Disability Policy.
Over the coming months, the Agriculture Committee will continue to hold hearings, at both the full committee and subcommittee levels, featuring a range of stakeholders.Read More
1300 Longworth House Office Building
Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry – Public Hearing
RE: To review the definition of “waters of the United States” proposed rule and its impact on rural AmericaRead More
Remarks as prepared:
Good afternoon and welcome to this year’s first meeting of the Nutrition Subcommittee. Thank you all for making time in your schedules to be here and thank you to today’s witnesses for your participation. Today, I would like to give you a glimpse of what lies ahead for this subcommittee over the next two years as we review SNAP.
Before we begin, I want to take an opportunity for everyone here to understand my background and why this issue and this subcommittee is important to me. First and foremost, I am a lifelong Hoosier and I have dedicated my career to helping Hoosier families. After I married my husband, we made the decision to move to Romania where we created and ran a local foundation and spent four years providing resources to impoverished children across the country. I know what starvation looks like both internationally and in my own district and how it affects families and communities. And when I read that one in six Americans is hungry, it reaffirmed my commitment to ensure no child or adult endures what I’ve seen others go through. In order for us to be successful, it’s imperative that we first review the SNAP program to better understand what works and what doesn’t.
The full committee yesterday examined why a review of SNAP is so important – it’s the largest welfare program in both the number of recipients and the amount of spending, yet the program lacks a clear mission and the data reveals that it is not helping lift people out of poverty. It is my hope and expectation that this subcommittee, along with the work done at the full committee, will explore and gain a better understanding of the entire program and specifically its recipients to find unmet needs and areas of overlap.
The SNAP program does not function by itself and many other factors contribute to its ultimate success. That’s why it’s so important that this subcommittee focus our efforts on understanding how SNAP can best serve families and children across the United States. What’s very clear to me, and what I hope becomes clear to you in the coming months, are the many layers of bureaucracy that exist within SNAP.
Currently 18 different programs provide food assistance, and while many of them do not fall within this committee’s jurisdiction, they do serve SNAP recipients. In addition, a range of low-income benefit programs are offered at the local, state and federal levels. On top of that, a web of non-profits and community service providers exist to provide assistance.
While I recognize the government’s role in this process, there are wonderful local organizations, like St. Margaret’s House and the Food Bank of Northern Indiana that help to feed Hoosiers in my district and provide support to families and children in need. This is why understanding the overlap and unfamiliarity of local programs will help us decide how to best provide support and services to families in need. In the coming months we’ll be able to tackle these issues and more.
But today is about understanding those families in need. Who they are, what has brought them to the program, and how long they have remained in the program so we better understand how to serve them. Today is not about policy recommendations; it’s about understanding the diverse characteristics and dynamics of the more than 46 million Americans who receive benefits from this program each month. Over the coming months, our review will include a range of stakeholder perspectives, including current and former recipients; non-profits, states and localities, the food industry, and nutrition experts to name a few.
Today we will hear from a panel of distinguished researchers who have all conducted well-documented studies using trusted government data sources. In most cases, the research has been funded by the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service, which oversees the administration of SNAP.
I want all the members to know that I am always available if you want to offer any input as we move forward. I thank all of our witnesses for being here with us today and look forward to their testimony.
Today, Rep. Jackie Walorski (IN-2), Chairwoman of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Nutrition, held a public hearing to review the characteristics and dynamics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients. The committee will conduct a full-scale review this Congress in order to improve and strengthen the program for its intended recipients. This hearing follows yesterday’s full committee hearing on the past, present, and future of SNAP.
“It is my hope and expectation that this subcommittee, along with the work done at the full committee, will explore and gain a better understanding of the entire program and specifically its recipients to find unmet needs and areas of overlap,” Subcommittee Chairwoman Jackie Walorski said. “The SNAP program does not function by itself, and many other factors contribute to its ultimate success. That’s why it’s so important that this subcommittee focus our efforts on understanding how SNAP can best serve families and children across the United States.”
“I applaud Subcommittee Chairwoman Jackie Walorski for taking on this important task in the subcommittee’s first hearing,” Chairman K. Michael Conaway said. “It is important to know who is currently being served, and how, before being able to move forward. This is the next step of what will be a thorough and thoughtful review of the program.”
Karen Cunnyngham, Senior Researcher, Mathematica Policy Research
Dr. Gregory Mills, Senior Fellow, Urban Institute
Dr. James P. Ziliak, Founding Director, Center for Poverty Research, University of Kentucky
Stephen Tordella, President, Decision Demographics
Today the House Committee on Agriculture began a full-scale review of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Committee heard from University of Maryland welfare scholar Doug Besharov on the past, present, and future of the nation's largest program in the domestic hunger safety net.
"SNAP has grown from a relatively small pilot program to the second largest federal welfare program, quadrupling in spending since 2001," Chairman Conaway said. "Everyone from recipients to taxpayers deserves an efficient program with a clearly defined mission. That's why the Committee, over the coming months, will thoroughly examine this program and gain a full understanding of its purpose, goal, and participants. The program itself has largely not changed in the last 30 years, despite significant changes in the nation's economy and the socioeconomic makeup of the American population."
"We can all agree that no one ought to go hungry in America, and SNAP is essential in protecting the most vulnerable citizens during tough times. For many it is a vital lifeline to keeping food on the table. What we don’t want is for this program to hold people back from achieving their potential. I believe there is a role for SNAP, but we need to have a complete and clear understanding of its mission and purpose."
Witness List:Robert Greenstein, President, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Douglas J. Besharov, Professor, University of Maryland School of Public PolicyRead More
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
I want to welcome our witnesses to today’s hearing and thank them for taking the time to share their thoughts and answer our questions about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It is the largest program under the Committee’s jurisdiction, and today’s hearing marks the beginning of a top-to-bottom review of the program. We will conduct this review without preconceived notions and with a commitment to strengthening the program so it can serve as a tool to help individuals move up the economic ladder.
SNAP has grown from a pilot program that served just 500,000 people in 1964 to a program that at its peak during the recession served more than 47 million Americans. Being post-recession and post-farm bill reauthorization, we are in the unique position of being able to conduct a pro-active review of SNAP, ensuring the program is prepared to address current and future challenges. There are also a number of bipartisan reforms enacted in the Agricultural Act of 2014, including new work pilots, which have not been fully implemented. Evaluating those important reforms will be a key part of our review.
Another key aspect to be included in this review is the private social services sector. From churches to non-profits and local food banks, they serve as important partners in the delivery of critical food assistance in communities across the country.
While the economy has changed and other welfare programs have adjusted to meet changing needs, it does not appear that SNAP has. We have seen the overall unemployment rate fall, yet the number of long-term unemployed remains high. The lengthy “recovery” following the 2009 recession has brought in a new group of healthy, working age recipients, who in the past had not used SNAP. This is a new dynamic not previously experienced following other recessions when periods of unemployment were much shorter.
Some programs have responded to the changing needs of its target population. We’ve watched as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program has moved increasingly toward more services, such as transportation and child care, compared to cash assistance, in order to better support the needs of working parents.
We can all agree that no one ought to go hungry in America, and SNAP is essential in protecting the most vulnerable citizens during tough times. For many it is a vital lifeline to keeping food on the table. What we don’t want is for this program to hold people back from achieving their potential. I believe there is a role for SNAP, but we need to have a complete and clear understanding of its mission and purpose.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today as we explore where this program has been, were it is now, and what it could be for recipients and taxpayers in the future.Read More
1300 Longworth House Office Building
Subcommittee on Nutrition – Public Hearing
RE: To review SNAP recipient characteristics and dynamicsRead More
1300 Longworth House Office Building
Full Committee on Agriculture – Public Hearing
RE: To review the past, present and future of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance ProgramRead More
Today, the House Committee on Agriculture held a hearing to review the futures, options, and swaps markets that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) oversees. Chairman K. Michael Conaway urged CFTC Chairman Timothy Massad to make sure the agency’s rules both protect end-users and ensure well-functioning financial markets. Today’s hearing examined new regulations in the swaps market, coordination of international regulations, and the need for global standards for data reporting. Chairman Massad also discussed his thoughts on the reauthorization of the CFTC.
“I feel confident that Chairman Massad understands our Committee’s concerns and shares our desire to promote an efficient system that provides certainty in the marketplace, protects end-users, and contributes to a strong national economy,” Chairman Conaway said. “Burdensome regulations increase costs and create uncertainty for farmers, ranchers, and the many other business owners across America who depend on the markets that the CFTC oversees to manage risks in the global market place. As the Agriculture Committee continues conducting oversight and working towards reauthorizing the CFTC, it is important to thoroughly review the agency’s operations, examine issues facing the futures and swaps markets, and evaluate how regulations and implementation of new rules are affecting the agricultural and wider financial community.”
Mr. Timothy Massad, Chairman, Commodity Futures Trading Commission
# # #Read More
Chairman Massad, thank you for joining us today. Today’s hearing is the first of what I hope will be many productive engagements between you, your staff, your fellow commissioners, and the members of this committee.
In 2015, the CFTC’s response to the financial crisis is entering a new phase—shifting from the breakneck race to draft rules to the more deliberative implementation of the rules. It is inevitable that Congress and the Commission made mistakes along the way, and now it is time for us to step back and recognize improvements that can be made.
Mr. Chairman, I am pleased that you have reexamined some of the prior rulemakings to ensure that end-users are not unduly burdened by these new rules. Your proposal on volumetric optionality exemptions, record keeping requirements, and the residual interest deadline are appreciated. While we may not see eye-to-eye on all of the details, the proposals meaningfully move the needle in the right direction.
While continuing our longstanding focus on protecting end-users, this Committee will examine several broader issues this year. Specifically, we will look at the swaps market under the new regulations, the position limits rulemaking and the bona fide hedge exemption, the resolution of the many cross-border jurisdictional issues that have come up, and the collection and usage of the tremendous volume of new data flowing into the Commission.
Commissioner Giancarlo recently authored a comprehensive whitepaper on the swap space and the SEF rules, in particular. As someone with significant experience in that area, I appreciate his insight into these markets. Building new swaps exchanges and mandating centralized clearing and margining when feasible is at the heart of the reforms in Title VII of Dodd-Frank. But, it is important that changes to swaps markets recognize the gradual growth of these financial instruments.
In a similar vein, as the Commission contemplates its position limits rule, it is not enough to regulate simply because the Commission has the power. The law directs the Commission to set new position limits “as appropriate” and “as the Commission finds are necessary” to curtail “excessive speculation.”
As the Commission moves forward, its proposed rule must first explain whether or not price movements in commodities are based on reasonable market forces and can be justified by facts, and then explain how position limits will diminish, eliminate, or prevent market disruptions. Big price swings – even those we’ve seen in the oil markets over the past decade – are not prima facie evidence for the appropriateness of and need for position limits.
The Commodity Exchange Act also includes an expansive definition of bona fide hedging which specifically includes anticipatory hedging needs. It is important that this exemption remain broad enough that legitimate commercial hedging activity can be sheltered from any limits the Commission may demonstrate are appropriate.
On cross border issues, it appears that there has been some tentative progress in reducing the ongoing tension with foreign regulators over how we apply national rules across international borders. Trust and mutual respect is a first step towards solving these difficult issues, so this is welcome news. However, it is important the CFTC and international regulators finish this important work and rebuild the fractured swaps markets.
Finally, over the past few years, numerous witnesses have testified to the Commission’s difficulty in collecting and using the tremendous volume of new data required by Dodd-Frank. This issue is critical to the functioning of swaps markets. Data reporting rules impose a burden on market participants and those burdens cannot be in vain. I know that the Commission is working to address this issue and I look forward to an update on this progress.
In my view, these four issues present the biggest challenges to implementing Title VII with the least amount of additional disruption as possible. In the coming months, we’ll be taking up the reauthorization of the CFTC and the Committee will look for broad input about how we can tailor and refine the law, to ensure the marketplace works for all participants. As we do so, Mr. Chairman, your perspective will be invaluable to our legislative process. While we won’t agree on everything, we will work with you and your team to find common ground on improvements to the CEA.
Mr. Chairman, I look forward to working with you during the time we are privileged to serve together. Again, thank you for appearing before this committee to share your views with us. We appreciate your time today.Read More
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