The massive farm bill that President Obama is expected to sign on Friday cuts $8.6 billion in food-stamp benefits over a decade, but Texas recipients won’t be affected.

That’s because the cuts target programs in about 15 states that increase food-stamp benefits  — formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP — to offset the cost of heating recipients’ homes. Texas is not among these so-called “heat and eat” states.

“The farm bill’s change to those rules shouldn’t affect people getting SNAP in Texas,” said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. About 3.3 million Texans received food-stamp benefits last month.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., a co-author of the farm bill, says on her website that the legislation “closes a loophole being used by some states to artificially inflate benefits for a small number of recipients.”

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But Celia Cole, CEO of the Texas Food Bank Network, said it’s not a loophole.

The cuts, Cole said, are “just Congress’ way of finding a chunk of change to cut out of SNAP at the expense of a lot of really poor Americans.” The cuts will affect 850,000 families, she said.

The 15 states expected to be affected are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. In addition, Washington, D.C., is affected, and New Hampshire also may be, though its program works slightly differently from those of the other states on the list.

Food-stamp benefits across the country, including in Texas, were cut in November with the expiration of 2009 stimulus dollars that paid for a SNAP increase. The average monthly family benefit in Texas dropped $18 to $267 in November when the stimulus ended, according to the state Health and Human Services Commission.

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