Farm bill scraps plan for new food stamp rules
Federal food aid recipients won’t be faced with major new work requirements. And changes in forestry policy that made environmentalists furious are gone.
House Republicans gave up Thursday on trying to include those provisions in a massive farm policy bill, clearing the way for a vote in Congress next week.
The concessions will likely help draw Democratic votes to the bill in the House. Democrats indicated support would be more bipartisan and follow similar numbers on past farm bills, which tend to pass comfortably.
The farm bill will reauthorize the nation’s nearly $900 billion in food and agriculture programs for another five years. That includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, which helps lowincome families pay for food. The bill also deals with crop insurance, a program that protects farmers against financial losses due to disasters and droughts.
Out is the House Republicans’ plan, which aimed to expand work requirements for SNAP beneficiaries. The GOP wanted the work rules to apply to able-bodied adults up to age 59 and to people with young dependent children, an unpopular prospect to Democrats. Leaving that out will mean more support from House Democrats but will alienate some Republicans.
House Republicans lacked enough clout to push for the stricter work requirements after Democratic victories in this month’s House elections.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., the lead negotiator for the Senate, was vague about the specific provisions in the compromise. But when asked if the bill would be closer to the Senate’s plan for SNAP, Roberts replied, “I would say, yes.”
The Senate plan included incentives for states to expand work training programs and added new accountability measures to the program. “It’s more comprehensive and focuses on program integrity,” Roberts said.
A senior Democratic staff member said while SNAP provisions did mostly reflect the Senate version, there were certain “concessions” given to House Republicans. But those concessions will be “tweaks and tightening” to work requirements, not “big sweeping increases,” the staff member said.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said that the House would largely have to accept the Senate’s position on the nutrition program.
“I don’t think we can get a single Democrat to vote for some of the requirements in the House nutrition title,” Thune said.
Some House Republicans are already signaling the changes mean they won’t support the final bill.
Rep. Mark Walker, RN.C., said on Twitter that he couldn’t support the new version of the farm bill after the concessions on some key issues.
“House conservatives, the president and the vast majority of Americans support policies that encourage work and help lift people out of poverty. As I’ve said for months, those provisions have to stay,” Walker said.
Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., a House Agriculture Committee member, said, “I think we can get it passed,” even though “for me to sit here and say we’re not going to lose some Republican votes, I can’t say that.” Marshall supports the bill because it preserves crop insurance, a top priority for his district.
Thune said Republicans would also make concessions in the debate over forest fires.
“There just isn’ much profit to be made on a farm these days,” says Ben Llloyd, standing his soybean field in Efland.