The Truth about Food Stamps




If you were a businessman and could convince Congress to enact legislation that guaranteed billions of dollars of federal money would be spent in your industry you would probably be very happy to see such a guaranteed revenue stream. Such is the reality of the Food Stamps program for farmers and grocery wholesalers and retailers. The Food Stamps program is a guaranteed expenditure for those industries.

The reality is that the Food Stamp program is only secondarily a welfare program; it is primarily a farm subsidy and grocery industry program. This is the best explanation for the fact that at the federal level the Food Stamp program is operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, not the Health and Human Services Agency (HHS) that administers what we know as the primary federal welfare program – TANF, before federal welfare reform it was called AFDC. In California, TANF is the CalWORKS program.   CalWorks is the program that last summer Governor Schwarzenegger proposed be eliminated to help balance California’s budget.

When it periodically comes time for Congress to look at eligibility for Food Stamps, or to reauthorize that program, the biggest lobby working Congress is from the agriculture and grocery supply industries.   It is their bread and butter. These interests tend to want eligibility requirements relaxed and of course they want the program to continue.

Now comes another twist on this industry support program. An organization named California Food Policy Advocates has released a report that California is “losing” $ 4.9 billion because Food Stamp enrollment is not reaching everyone who is eligible – according to the report only 48% of eligible Californians are actually enrolled in the program ( The report is called “Lost Dollars, Empty Plates”, and estimates that if all eligible Californians were enrolled the expenditure of these additional federal dollars would generate $158 million of sales tax revenue in California.

So there you have it. The truth about the Food Stamps program is that it is a significant farm and grocery industry subsidy, and besides the so-called humanitarian consideration of feeding people states have an economic incentive to do all they can to grow the Food Stamp rolls. The agendas driving the Food Stamps program are a lot more complex than most people wound ever think.

About Over But Not Out

A retired Orange County employee, and moderate Republican. The editor seriously does not know OBNO's identity as did not the former editor, but his point of view is obviously interesting and valued.