No matter what the final version of a new farm bill looks like, spending on the program commonly referred to as food stamps is likely to be cut.
Any reduction is expected to hit hard because food prices are up, and continuing problems with unemployment and the economy are causing more people to seek help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the food stamp program's formal name.
President Barack Obama doesn't want any cuts.
A proposal by the House Agriculture Committee would slice $16.5 billion from the program over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That amounts to nearly half of the $35 billion total cuts associated with the proposal.
The Senate version would reduce program spending by about $4.5 billion and total spending by $23 billion.
The Department of Public Welfare, which administers the program in Pennsylvania, didn't want to comment on the potential impact of funding cuts.
Berks County Agricultural Coordinator Sheila Miller said she has seen how important food assistance is to low-income families and senior citizens when she accepts benefit cards from people buying fresh fruit and vegetables at the downtown farmers market.
"There are some people who live from one month to the next," she said. "Most of them know down to the penny how much they're getting and how much they have left on the card."
On the other hand, the program is in need of an overhaul to reduce waste and fraud, Miller said.
Both the House and Senate proposals include provisions to address the problems.
The program should be improved and tightened, Miller said.
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