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Noem, Johnson clash over food-stamp cuts

Two of South Dakota’s congressional delegates exposed a divide in their thoughts on the farm bill and food stamps.

Thursday, the House of Representatives voted 217-210 to cut nearly $4 billion a year from food stamps, which the House split out from the farm bill after progress on the farm bill stalled.

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Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., voted for the cuts.

“This bill puts integrity back into the food stamp program to ensure that those who need assistance the most receive it,” Noem said in a written statement.

“These reforms return work incentives to the program while curbing fraud, waste and abuse and refocusing benefits on families most in need. We need to ensure we have good policies in place that people can get behind and support, and I believe this bill does that. I’m pleased that the farm bill is now one step closer to completion.”

Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., called Thursday “a sad day.”

“Today, the House of Representatives voted to cut critical nutrition assistance from thousands of South Dakotans and millions of Americans,” he said in a written statement. “After the House leadership couldn’t pass a farm bill with $20 billion in cuts to nutrition programs, they separated out the nutrition title and doubled the cuts in order to appease the extreme right wing of the Republican Party. This bill is unacceptable.”

Johnson said the House should take up an earlier Senate-passed version of the farm bill, which he said reduces the deficit, supports millions of jobs, improves farm programs and makes common-sense reforms to nutrition assistance.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., issued a statement saying he’s pleased the House has taken action so the Senate and House can begin to work together on their competing versions of the farm bill.

“The Nutrition Title and food stamps now account for 80 percent of all farm bill spending. I have put forward several common-sense reforms that would save billions of taxpayer dollars without changing existing eligibility thresholds for those who truly need food assistance,” Thune said in an email to The Daily Republic.

“The House-passed bill includes some of those reforms. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I will continue to stay engaged during this final debate to work for needed changes to the Commodity Title as well as common-sense food stamp reforms.”