Agriculture Subcommittee Holds Hearing to Review Operations of the Food Stamp Program

Jul 24, 2003

AGRICULTURE SUBCOMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING TO REVIEW OPERATIONS OF THE FOOD STAMP PROGRAM

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Gil Gutknecht, Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry, convened a hearing today to review operations of the food stamp program, including implementation of the 2002 Farm Bill, completion of the implementation of the electronic benefits transfer (EBT) delivery of food stamp benefits to all families receiving benefits, program performance and error rate, and continuing efforts to combat fraud and abuse in the food stamp program.

“In a country with the world’s most wholesome, economical, safe and abundant food supply, no one should go hungry…This hearing will provide the Subcommittee with a better understanding of how the Farm Bill has affected Federal and state administration of the program, as well as program participants. ” Subcommittee Chairman Gutknecht said. “We seek to understand how we might continue to improve the program’s performance and its service to individuals. “

The Subcommittee heard from two witness panels. The first panels featured Mr. Eric M. Bost, Under Secretary, Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, United States Department of Agriculture, while Ms. Phyllis K. Fong, Inspector General, United States Department of Agriculture made up the second panel.

In his testimony, Mr.Bost said, “On June 27, USDA announced States’ FY 2002 food stamp Quality Control (QC) payment error rates and I am proud to report that the error rate is now the lowest in the program’s history…” Mr. Bost went on to say, “In spite of the State’s overall success in making payment accuracy a priority, this Administration remains concerned over the failure of a few states to bring payment errors under control, and the millions of Federal dollars that are being wasted.”

In Ms. Fong’s written testimony she remarked, “Considering the size of the Food Stamp Program (over $18 billion of benefits issued in fiscal year 2002), the program is working reasonably well…” Later in her testimony she commented, “…OIG will continue to work collaboratively with FNS through our audits and investigations to improve program administration, as well as its integrity.”

On May 13, 2002, President Bush signed the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act into law. The Farm Bill made significant changes to the Food Stamp Program and provided $6.4 billion in new funding for food and nutrition programs at the Department of Agriculture. Over 21 million people from 9 million households will participate in the Food Stamp Program this month and the program will provide more than $20 billion in benefits this year.

“…I believe it is important for this Subcommittee to continue to exercise its oversight responsibilities. I hope we can work with the Administration and states to ensure a well run program that meets the needs of program participants. . .” Gutknecht concluded.

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