The House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Nutrition and Horticulture held an audit hearing on Thursday to examine Title IV nutrition programs. This is the seventh hearing in the series on farm policy that is designed to provide oversight of current spending to ensure programs are delivered effectively, while minimizing waste, fraud, abuse, and duplication. It also provides members of the subcommittee with a comprehensive view of farm programs.

For more on the subcommittee, see Citrus greening, pesticides and farmers markets.

The nutrition title accounts for more than 75 percent of the entire farm bill spending. The primary nutrition assistance program is the Supplemental Nutrition Assurance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. SNAP helps supplement the food budget of low-income households and is designed in such a way that it expands to help those households during economic downturns and contracts as the economy improves. Participation in SNAP has risen by nearly 70 percent -- from 26 million in 2007 to more than 44 million in April of 2011. The United States spent $33 billion on SNAP in fiscal year 2007 and spending has more than doubled to nearly $69 billion in fiscal year 2011.

"This dramatic growth in SNAP participation and cost has strained our resources. Given our current budget situation, we have a responsibility to examine whether we can reduce the funding without compromising the integrity of the SNAP program,"said Ohio Rep. Jean Schmidt, chairman of the subcommittee.

"In these difficult economic times, federal nutrition programs like SNAP, TEFAP, and the Commodity Supplemental Foods Program are the primary safety net between hunger and health for millions of Americans,” said California Rep. Joe Baca, ranking member. “Today’s hearing was an important opportunity to explore the current effectiveness and efficiency of these programs. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the upcoming farm bill to ensure adequate nutrition continues to be available to the neediest Americans, including our seniors and underserved populations, in the most efficient manner possible,"

For more, see testimony.