Monday afternoon Senator Jon Tester toured the Montana Food Bank Network in Missoula and talked with representatives about their concerns for the future of federally funded food programs like SNAP, WIC, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and the Emergency Food Assistance Program or TEFAP.
Tester tells NBC Montana he’s worried what automatic budget cuts would do to supplemental food programs.
“Whether its programs like this or any other program you’re going to see across the board cuts without regard to how much fat there is in the program,” said Tester. “What happens is you get programs that are lean and mean, but cuts will impact them much more severely then it will other programs that are more bloated.”
Tester told NBC Montana if both parties cannot come up with a solution we can expect to see cuts in nutrition programs like the Food Bank Network but he says he hopes to avoid the sequester which goes into effect on March 1.
“Hopefully it won’t come to pass but it could have some real negative impacts on food banks like this one,” said Tester. “It would also have some real negative impacts, more importantly, on the people who utilize food banks for their food so we’ve got to make sure it doesn’t happen.”
Tester told food bank representatives he is exploring ways to stop supplemental food programs from losing funding but he says the big factor is whether or not there will be a bipartisan agreement that would stop budget cuts from happening.
“The whole challenge with sequesters is there’s no determination made between programs that are good and cost-effective and programs that aren’t,” said Tester. “When you take the cuts that the sequester offers up, you can see it’s really done with a chainsaw.”
Though nutrition programs are hopeful that congress will spare their funding they won’t know for sure until March 1 and are preparing in case they face cuts.