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Letter to Congressional Committee Chairmen on the Food Stamp Program.

February 20, 1976

[Dated February 19, 1976. Released February 20, 1976]

Dear Senator Talmadge: (Dear Congressman Foley:)

I am deeply concerned by the failure of Congress to enact seriously needed changes in the Food Stamp program.

Last October I sent to Congress legislation to reform the Food Stamp program.1 My proposals were designed both to concentrate benefits on those truly in need and to correct the abuses and inequities of the current program. Under my plan, 24% of the participants would receive increased benefits. This represents nearly 5 million of our neediest citizens with incomes below the poverty level. At the same time, overall program costs would be reduced by $1.2 billion because most abuses would be eliminated and those with incomes well above the poverty level would no longer be eligible.

1 See 1975 volume, Items 89 and 634.

As you know, the Food Stamp appropriation passed by Congress in December clearly anticipated implementation of substantial reform. Indeed, that appropriation bill contained the assumption that reform would take place promptly and therefore the amounts provided to pay program benefits were reduced accordingly. Without action it is clear that the funds appropriated will not be adequate to meet the costs of the program. But no action has yet been taken by Congress to implement real reform. Each day that goes by without enactment of the reforms which I have proposed costs the taxpayers more than $3.25 million.

My budget anticipated legislative reform action by February 1, 1976. We have passed that date and time is running out.

While statutory changes by the Congress would be the most desirable course of action, we can no longer afford to wait. Since the Congress has not acted, there are only two courses open to me: to ask for more funds to continue the program as it is, or to direct the Secretary of Agriculture to proceed administratively to reform the program through changes in regulations.

The first course is unacceptable to me because I believe the taxpayers have waited far too long for reform of this program. Therefore, since the Congress has not enacted Food Stamp reform, I have directed the Secretary of Agriculture to issue regulations which will set in motion the reforms needed to eliminate abuses, control costs, and concentrate benefits on those truly in need.



Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Herman E. Talmadge, Chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Forestry Committee, and the Honorable Thomas S. Foley, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

Gerald R. Ford, Letter to Congressional Committee Chairmen on the Food Stamp Program. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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