The farm bill passed by the U.S. Senate Tuesday and sent to President Barack Obama for his signature cuts about $8 billion in spending for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- commonly known as food stamps. The figure accounts for about 1 percent of the program's budget.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who voted against the bill in the House, said the cuts will affect 1.7 million Americans in 850,000 low-income households that "will lose 66 meals a month."
Vilsack said 92 percent of those on the SNAP program are "senior citizens, people with disabilities, and working men and women and their children," and most qualify for SNAP because they also qualify for federal heating assistance.
He said they should be able to qualify "under the normal way of applying for SNAP."
"In the event that, that slightly higher bar, basically, will mean that someone may lose their coverage, then it is up to us at USDA to ensure that we fill in the gaps, that we do a good job of making sure folks know how to apply in the normal process so that we are in a position to cover as many people as possible," he said.
Vilsack said the bill passed by the Senate Tuesday gives the Department of Agriculture the ability to "do a more creative job in working with states to get folks who are able-bodied, who are looking for work, who want to work, giving them a better opportunity to get work."