SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP is a government program that assists low-income senior citizens, people with disabilities, and individuals and families with low incomes. The average monthly SNAP benefit is $129 per household member. Individuals closer to the poverty line typically receive more benefits due to the sliding scale assessment of need.
SNAP’s mission is to provide financial help to struggling citizens. The main goal is to provide for the nutritional requirements of these people so they can then afford other things like rent and medical bills.
What does this have to do with our current crop insurance program? They originate in the same place – the 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Act. Intended to provide support to farmers affected by the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, the program created by that act, the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation, bought farm commodities at discounted prices and distributed them to hunger relief agencies across the United States. Farmers received something for their crops and hungry people were able to eat.
In 1964, the Food Stamp Act was enacted to deal with agricultural overproduction. It was a win/win: the agricultural economy was strengthened and people with low incomes could improve their nutrition levels. The program grew and expanded as multiple needs were identified and addressed over time.
Over the last several decades, the Food Stamp Program has undergone multiple changes, including eligibility tests, job search requirements, and many others. The program was renamed SNAP in the 2008 Farm Bill. In the 2018 Farm Bill, SNAP accounted for 80% of the total budget of the bill. In 2021, the total cost of the program was roughly $114 billion dollars. In contract, just under 9% of the 2018 Farm Bill expenditures were directed toward crop insurance.
In essence, SNAP provides food for people that need help. Crop insurance is designed to help farmers do what they do best – feed the world. By providing a safety net for America’s growers and producers, crop insurance puts food on the shelves of supermarkets and local farmers markets, where all consumers (SNAP beneficiaries or not) have access to a wide variety of nutritious food.
Crop insurance and food assistance have gone hand-in-hand since 1933. As Congress debates a new Farm Bill for 2023, don’t expect that to change much, if at all.