Excerpted from the Identity Crisis of America’s Largest Anti-Hunger Program
In the 2018 Farm Bill, banks, refrigeration equipment manufacturers and even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce join food retailers, beverage companies, and manufacturers as key stakeholders in the SNAP program. These players have evolved into much more important participants in the food stamp program than farm groups, as evidenced by the amount of money they spend on lobbying. These groups are lobbying to ensure that they receive a continued share of the enormous SNAP pie estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to be about $640 billion from 2019-2029. Following is a categorization of the amount of money industry and public sector players spent lobbying for SNAP in the last farm bill.
Click here for a detailed spreadsheet of these lobbying expenditures.
The support of the agriculture and food industries has fundamentally shaped the evolution of the food stamp program. The United States remains the only major nation with a program that supports the poor not through cash, but through transfers linked to its own agri-food industry. Because food stamps have been essentially a form of aid tied to industry, the program’s structure has been downstream to the nature of the marketplace. Congress has adopted a laissez-faire approach to SNAP recipients’ food choices. With the exception of minimal restrictions around hot foods, the government has allowed the purchases of the food stamp program to shift with broader societal trends. For example, if we as a society consume more processed foods and drink more sugary beverages than we did 20 years ago, then changes in the purchases made with SNAP benefits have simply reflected those trends.