The Senate Agriculture Committee begins marking up its version of the Farm Bill today. The legislation, introduced last Friday by Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), includes measures to improve access to affordable, healthy food for low-income Americans and enhance federal nutrition education programs.

But the bill, as it stands, proposes significant cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, which has prompted concern among some nutrition and health groups that believe the bill doesn’t go far enough to protect the millions of Americans who depend on this food assistance program.

“With unemployment stuck at over 8 percent nationally, millions of families scraping by with reduced wages or hours, and the charitable system stretched to the breaking point, cuts to SNAP would add further hardship for struggling families and communities across the country,” said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America in a statement.

The number of low-income Americans who rely on SNAP every day to feed their families has burgeoned to 49 million and continues to inch up, due in part to the recession. The bill recommends a projected $4.49 billion cut to SNAP.

“While we recognize the need to make strategic investments during tough budgetary times, we must work to strengthen all programs that protect against hunger, serve vulnerable populations and strengthen community-based programs that improve access to local and regionally produced fresh, healthy food,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of APHA in a statement.

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