Farm state GOP senators speak favorably of more food assistance funds

Four Republicans on the Senate Agriculture Committee have spoken favorably in the past few days of additional funding for public nutrition programs during the pandemic, possibly including an increase in SNAP benefits. A temporary 15 percent increase in SNAP is a goal of House Democrats; Senate Republicans did not include the increase in their proposal for a new coronavirus relief package.

“It’s not an ‘either-or.’ We need agriculture aid, including biofuels, and a temporary plus-up of SNAP benefits to help Iowa families weather this pandemic,” said Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa on social media on Wednesday.

A day earlier, Senate Agriculture chairman Pat Roberts said he had raised the issue with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Associated Press quoted Roberts as saying, “They are taking a look at it, and I think we can get a positive result. … If we can get a breakthrough on that, it could lead to some other stuff.” Asked about the report, a Roberts aide said, “We don’t have any further comment.”

Early this week, Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota said he was open to additional money for public nutrition if it did not come at the expense of aid to farmers and ranchers, according to the Hagstrom Report. Besides serving on the Agriculture Committee, Hoeven chairs the Appropriations subcommittee responsible for USDA funding.

“We should work to increase SNAP and provide for the hungry during this pandemic,” said Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer in a tweet last week that saluted the work of food banks.