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Federal food stamp cuts likely won't affect Minnesota

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Last fall, amid rancorous debate over proposed cuts to the nation's food stamps program, much was made of how the suggested cuts might hurt low-income Minnesotans. In September, the House approved legislation that would have scaled back food aid to 32,000 in the state.

But those cuts did not come to pass, MinnPost reports. Here's what happened.

The proposed cuts were part of the long, frustrating debate in Congress over the far-ranging farm bill, which dragged on for nearly two years. A new agreement was finally brokered this week, and the House approved the 949-page bill, with quick approval expected next week in the Senate likely.

The broad bill affects roughly 16 million agriculture jobs nationwide, Reuters noted. Among its key tenets is an effort to replace direct subsidies to farmers with enhanced crop insurance, and with added new price protections, the Star Tribune notes.

The bill also includes $8 billion in cuts over 10 years to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps – far less than the $40 billion in cuts once sought by GOP House leaders.

But low-income Minnesotans will not be among those affected, MinnPost notes, because Congress achieved its $8 billion in savings by closing a heating-assistance loophole that allowed states to collect more food stamps for hungry residents – and Minnesota had never taken advantage of that loophole. So the state won't miss that money.

But that doesn't mean food aid needs are decreasing in the state, advocates for the poor say. Other cuts to federal programs have had a lingering effect, Colleen Moriarty, with Hunger Solutions Minnesota, tells MinnPost.

Some food shelf managers have said demand is increasing, not decreasing. The Hubbard County Food Shelf has had more demand but fewer donations last year, the Park Rapids Enterprise reported Wednesday. In one Minnesota county, Dakota, where more than 28,000 residents live in poverty, two nonprofits are teaming up to fight hunger, the Star Tribune reported earlier this month.

And the Hunger-Free Minnesota initiative, aimed at "closing the missing-meal gap" in Minnesota by 2015, reported this week that coordinated efforts provided 49 million meals to hungry Minnesotans since it funded its first initiative in January 2012.

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