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Kraft CEO Comes Out Against Cuts To U.S. Food Stamp Program

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Kraft isn’t going give up its slice of the food stamp pie without a fight.

Tony Vernon, the incoming CEO at the world’s third largest food and beverage company, has come out against cutbacks to America’s $75 billion food stamp program, The Financial Times reported Sunday.

Vernon isn't the only major executive to make his political views known in recent months. This summer, Chick-fil-A executive Dan Cathy came out against gay marriage, and Papa John's CEO John Schnatter said the company would raise its pizza prices as a direct restult of health care reform.

In this case, food stamps are vital to Kraft’s bottom line. Food stamp purchases make up at least one-sixth of Kraft’s revenue and an even larger share of the company’s total sales, Vernon said in the FT article. America's biggest food makers and retailers have joined in the fight against pending cuts to federal food assistance programs largely because they rely heavily on sales purchased with food stamps. Kraft Foods has historically maintained a large lobbying presence in Washington.

Meanwhile food stamp funding has become a hot issue in Washington and on the campaign trail. Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan has proposed slashing food stamp spending and turning it into a block grant program. At the same time, more Americans than ever are relying on federal dollars to feed themselves, with food stamp use spiking 51 percent since October 2008, according to the USDA.

The food stamp program has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. Funding for SNAP, as it's known, jumped to $72 billion in 2011, up from $30 billion just four years earlier. Some health groups have argued that food stamps are too often used to buy junk food from companies like Kraft and Walmart.

A recent report by industry watchdog Eat Drink Politics showed that in one year, nine Walmart Supercenters in Massachusetts together received more than $33 million in SNAP dollars -- over four times the SNAP money spent at farmers' markets nationwide.

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