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October 1, 2014

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Nevada delegation splits on farm bill that cuts food stamps, extends rural aid

Food stamp cuts or federal help for rural communities. That was the choice Nevada lawmakers had to make Wednesday as the House passed the farm bill.

The delegation split on geographical lines, with the two representatives whose districts include large swaths of rural land opting to vote for the bill to preserve payments in lieu of taxes, or PILT funding, and the representative from urban Las Vegas voting against the measure to protest cuts in food assistance.

“If you have ever taken the “Food SNAP Challenge,” you know how difficult it is already to get nutritious meals for only $1.50,” said Democrat Rep. Dina Titus, who represents Nevada’s 1st Congressional District. “I believe that we can and should be doing more to end hunger in the U.S., and this cut is a step in the wrong direction.”

Nutritional assistance accounts for the largest portion of funding under the farm bill, and this year’s legislation cut about $8 billion from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP. Although some cuts to recipients were avoided by reducing spending on things like advertising SNAP, about 850,000 recipients will still face a cut of about $90 per month in food assistance.

Titus said that outweighed the benefits of PILT, though she said she is “supportive” of the provision that extends, for one year, a program under which the federal government makes payments to municipalities that include a lot of federal land in lieu of tax revenue those municipalities cannot collect from other ownership of the property.

When Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., weighed his options, he came to the opposite conclusion and voted for the farm bill.

PILT "dollars pay for education, law enforcement, infrastructure and other vital social services. This one-year renewal gives some certainty to local governments in planning their budgets,” Horsford said.

Horsford said the SNAP cuts, while troubling, are not as catastrophic as the House’s initial proposal last year: $40 billion.

“For Nevada families, veterans and children receiving meals because of SNAP, their safety net remains intact,” Horsford said.

Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., also voted for the farm bill. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., was absent. He is currently at home in Nevada, recovering from emergency eye surgery to fix a torn retina.

The bill passed 251-166 with backing from the Republican leadership team. It next heads to the Senate, where approval seems certain. The White House said President Barack Obama would sign it.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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