Proposed food stamp reductions in the farm bill come on top of an $11 billion cut that occurred when a recession-related boost in spending ended Nov. 1. For an individual, that reduction amounted to about $11 less in food stamps per month.

The Colemans were receiving $523 a month in food stamps. That was reduced by $40 this month.

Lawmakers have about a dozen work days left to broker a compromise on the farm bill by the end of the year. Without a deal, U.S. farm policy would be dictated by a law dating to the Truman administration that would double the price of milk in January.

A 41-lawmaker conference committee is working to reconcile the differences in the bills. If they can't find a compromise, Congress could decide to pass a short-term extension — though that option is opposed by many farmers.

A House bill died on the floor after conservative Republicans felt a proposed $20 billion cut to food stamps was not enough and Democrats felt it was too severe. Republicans then brought a bill to the floor with the $40 billion cut, and passed it over Democratic opposition.

"Taxpayers should not be forced to pay for able-bodied people who refuse to seek job training or employment," said Rep. Andy Harris, a Baltimore County Republican who voted for both versions of the bill. "We must ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely."

Democrats have largely held together in opposition to both versions.

"Most people in my district struggling to put food on the table are working parents, seniors and veterans," said Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Baltimore County Democrat who voted against both versions. "Government spending must be reduced, but not on the backs of families."

John Gaither Jr. gets $25 a month in food stamps, which he said covers little more than milk for him and his 17-year-old son.

"For them to cut us back when the price of food is going up, it shouldn't even be a discussion," said Gaither a 52-year-old Mount Clare resident. "We should spend money on Americans. We should take care of our own."

Gaither, a former steelworker, receives disability payments for neuropathy and arthritis. He said he is frustrated by politicians who want to put the interest of "corporate welfare queens" ahead of struggling families.

"You are going to make poverty worse," he said. "It's insane."

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