A new USDA report says one in seven U.S. families face an emptier dinner table. This is not a new trend with some seven million homes added to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly food stamps) roles since 2007.

Following an August recess, and facing a near-$15 trillion federal debt, Congress has returned to D.C., leaving behind increasingly jobless, disgusted and scornful constituencies. On Thursday, the 12-member “super committee” – cobbled together earlier this summer following the debt ceiling brinksmanship – will meet for the first time. By Nov. 23, the 12 must come up with $1.5 trillion in budget cuts, or savings, over the next decade.  

For more, see Congress’ ‘super committee’ and the next farm bill and Super Committee cuts or sequestration?

So, in this age of austerity and economic malaise, with 19 million U.S. households now signed up for SNAP -- never mind the other 14 nutrition programs overseen by the USDA – and entering an election year, will Congress really cut food programs? That’s just one of many questions facing agriculture interests on Capitol Hill as the next farm bill waits in the wings.

The House, pushed by hard-line Republicans seeking to solidify budget-cutting bona fides, weighed in earlier this year with a budget that, among other controversial moves, sliced 10 percent of the $6 billion WIC (Women Infants and Children) budget. Would the Democrat-controlled Senate lean the same way?

On Wednesday, faced with alarming news like the USDA nutrition program report, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed three bills. Now out of committee and headed to the full Senate are: the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Appropriations Bill (HR.2112), the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill (HR.2354), and the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill (HR.2017).