Ag secretary pushes back on Pat Roberts food boxes comment |

Ag secretary pushes back on Pat Roberts food boxes comment

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue pushed back today against a comment by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., that the committee does not plan to make major changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the next farm bill.

USDA has proposed changing the SNAP program so that participants would get half their benefits in food boxes and 50 percent of their benefits through the current system of electronic benefit transfer cards that are reloaded monthly.

USDA has maintained that money could be saved while serving the same number of people. Anti-hunger advocates and the grocery store industry say the “America’s Harvest Boxes” idea is impractical.

Noting that he has not discussed the idea personally with Roberts, Perdue said “We ought to be in the role of looking for any innovative ideas” to provide low-income people “a wholesome food supply.” He noted that half the benefits would still come on the EBT card.

“We ought to be in the role of looking for any innovative ideas (to provide low-income people) a wholesome food supply.” Sonny Perdue, agriculture secretary

He also pointed out that when Fred Smith, the founder of Federal Express, wrote a college paper on the idea of home delivery, he got a grade of F on it.

Perdue said he was making the case “inside the box,” an apparent reference to “inside the beltway” and the Washington establishment’s unwillingness to listen to new ideas.

After speaking at the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference this week, Roberts told reporters, “I think we can make efficiencies, but we’re not going to drastically change that program,” Politico reported.

“Quite frankly, I need 60 votes,” Roberts added.

Pressed further on whether he, like House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, is open to a pilot program for “America’s Harvest Boxes,” Roberts was noncommittal, Politico reported.

“I’m glad that Chairman Conaway said that. We have quite a few things to take care of,” Roberts said. “That would be down the list.”

House Agriculture Nutrition Subcommittee Chairman Glen Thompson, R-Pa., called the food boxes “a bad idea,” Politico said.

–The Hagstrom Report