The Farm Bill Remains Stalled Because Of Disagreements Over Food Stamps

Nov 21, 2018

Several Texas news outlets are reporting about how volunteers are helping those experiencing food insecurity this Thanksgiving. But how much attention is focused on those who grow and harvest the food, or those who rely on food stamps? Both issues are part of the massive federal farm bill that's set to expire soon, and with Congress away for Thanksgiving, certain crop subsidies, federal nutrition assistance programs and more are in limbo.

Liz Crampton, a Washington-based food and agriculture reporter for Politico, says the farm bill is being held up because of major differences between the House and Senate versions. What's more, negotiations between agriculture committee leaders in both chambers have been heated.

"The most glaring difference [are] the bills' approaches to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP], known more commonly as food stamps," Crampton says. 

The House bill would overhaul the program, imposing work requirements on 5 to 7 million food stamp recipients, and create a job training program at the state level. Crampton says those requirements are controversial.

"House Republicans have touted it as a shot at achieving outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan's welfare reform," she says. "However, Democrats want nothing to do with it."

The Senate bill, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, addresses some fraud issues, but doesn't overhaul SNAP.

"So, the challenge is how do you find a compromise?" Crampton says.

Texas Congressman and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway supports the House reforms to SNAP. He also supports maintaining subsidy payments to farmers, "especially in the tough economy they're facing right now," Crampton says.

Crampton says some lawmakers argue that if the farm bill doesn't pass during the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress, farmers will continue to face economic uncertainty, much of which has been brought on by President Donald Trump's trade disputes with other nations.

"[Farmers] need to know that they can count on payments from USDA," Crampton says. "Lenders need to know that the programs are going to stay consistent."

Though the current farm bill expired Sept. 30, farm programs are funded through the end of 2018, Crampton says.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.