WASHINGTON – Rep. Rick Crawford on Wednesday joined other Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee in support of a plan to cut $33 billion from food assistance programs over the next decade.

WASHINGTON – Rep. Rick Crawford on Wednesday joined other Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee in support of a plan to cut $33 billion from food assistance programs over the next decade.

The resolution, which passed on a partisan voice vote, recommends targeted reductions to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Republicans said the reductions were aimed at limiting food assistance to the truly needy and amounted to just a 4 percent cut in a program that has grown 270 percent over the past decade.

Democrats said the cuts would have a devastating impact on hunger in America. They said as many as 2 million people would lose their food assistance and 280,000 children would be cut from the free school lunch program.

Crawford, R-Jonesboro, said that the proposed cuts would have little impact in the Arkansas because the state, unlike most others, has not utilized the targeted loopholes to broaden eligibility.

“So there is almost no effect on Arkansas,” he said.

On average, 486,451 Arkansans received SNAP benefits each month during the 2011 fiscal year – up from 379,768 during the 2007 fiscal year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the program.

The 28 percent increase over the five-year period was tied for the lowest with West Virginia among the 50 states. Nevada, at 172 percent, had the largest percentage increase.

One recommendation that would have an impact is to eliminate a 19 percent increase in SNAP benefits that was included in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In March, the House approved a budget resolution that required the Agriculture Committee to make policy recommendations that would save an estimated $33.2 billion over 10 years.

The additional reductions were needed to avoid deeper cuts in the Department of Defense triggered by last year’s debt reduction deal.

The Agriculture Committee members do not expect the Senate will consider Wednesday’s recommendations but that did not stop Democrats and Republicans from engaging in a heated debate.

The two sides argued heatedly for 90 minutes over the proposal with the debate ending in a shouting match between Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., and Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., over Bibilical references to helping thy neighbor.

Crawford did not speak during the debate.