USDA fails to consult own economists on food stamp increase

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On December 10, 2021, the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) received a letter from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of Information Affairs (OIA) in response to a FOIA request FGA submitted back in November.

That FOIA request sought information surrounding the involvement of USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist (OCE) in USDA’s unprecedented decision to unilaterally increase food stamp benefits by 25 percent while abandoning the cost-neutral policy it had followed for 45 years.

The cost-neutral policy required USDA to adjust the value of food stamp benefits periodically based on inflation while requiring that the total value of the benefits be kept in line with what they were back in 1975, again, adjusted for inflation. By abandoning this policy which set economic guardrails for food stamps, President Biden has now granted himself the power (through USDA) to decide himself, without even bothering to consult Congress, how much may be spent on food stamps.

In their response to FGA’s FOIA request, the OIA stated the following: “The OCE relayed that they were not asked to review any information related [to] the 2021 Thrifty Food Plan.”

USDA’s politically-appointed leadership likely wasn’t interested in OCE’s “unbiased information and data-driven analyses” because they knew it would demonstrate the recklessness of the Biden administration’s 25 percent food stamp increase, which in turn, could hamper their efforts to increase food stamps as the president ordered them to do back in January when he commanded USDA to update the amount of food stamp benefits to reflect “the true cost of a basic healthy diet.”