Last Friday, following months of negotiations, President Obama signed into law The Agricultural Act of 2014 (also known as the Farm Bill).  This five-year legislation enacts policies and authorizes agriculture, trade, marketing, and other programs as well as rural development assistance. It also establishes funding levels and eligibility criteria for SNAP – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps). Though the final bill omitted the $40 billion in SNAP cuts proposed by the House, it will still hurt many low-income families. The new version cuts $8.6 billion from the program over the next decade—on top of the $5 billion slashed last November, which means more than 664,000 Mississippians and 597,000 Arkansans will see further cuts to their food assistance in 2014 (see chart below for specific household numbers).

SNAP Cut by Household Size Beginning November 2013

 Maximum Benefits Through Oct. 2013

Maximum Benefits Beginning Nov. 2013

Monthly Cut

Total Cut FY 2014

Household of 1





Household of 2





Household of 3





Household of 4





Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities – U.S. Department of Agriculture, “SNAP – Fiscal Year 2014 Cost-of-Living Adjustments and ARRA Sunset Impact on Allotments,” August 1, 2013.


Over $8 billion less in food for needy families is hardly something to celebrate, especially since unemployment is still high and SNAP has proven to be a highly successful anti-poverty program; however, there is a bright side. The Farm Bill maintains a state’s right to “broad-based categorical eligibility” (BBCE), which means states are permitted to raise or remove asset limits on SNAP.  A previous version of the bill (H.Res. 361), which was introduced last fall, contained a provision to make additional SNAP cuts by eradicating BBCE. That would have instituted a federal asset limit of $2,000 on SNAP, thus inhibiting a family’s ability to receive SNAP even if they qualified for other low-income government assistance programs. That version would have also reversed 18 years of state-level progress on reforming asset limits, limiting many families’ economic mobility by forcing them to spend down long-term savings to receive short-term assistance.

This means that it’s now up to the states to take advantage of the BBCE benefits for low-income families and program administration. In 2013, Southern worked with Arkansas lawmakers to pass SB 911, now Act 535, which requires the Department of Human Services to conduct a study on asset limits for the SNAP and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This was a positive step, but we must take a step further in eliminating asset limits entirely.

To read more of our past blog posts on the Farm Bill, check them out here.


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