Farm Bill: Lawmakers’ Perspective – SNAP and Conservation

As the work of the Farm Bill conference committee progresses, two issues, SNAP and conservationhave been singled out as key to the committee’s success.  Today’s update looks briefly at recent news items that contain lawmaker perspective on these two issues.

SNAP (Food Stamps)

House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) was a guest on Friday’s “Adams on Agriculture” radio program with Mike Adams.

During the interview (audio replay here (MP3- 10:00); unofficial FarmPolicyNews transcript here) Mr. Adams queried: “Well, let’s talk farm bill. How much is going on during this August recess? How much behind the scenes work is being done?

Rep. Peterson noted that, “Well, there’s a lot going on. The staff’s been very heavily engaged. They’re working every day, all day long, and into the early evening. We had a conference call yesterday. It was the second one between the four of us, and it went well.

“And everybody is, you know, totally committed to getting this thing done by September 30th, so we laid out kind of where we’re at and where some of the issues are. We’re going to have the, apparently the public meeting is going to be on September 5th.

“And we’re making very good progress in a number of the titles. A number of them are close to being worked out.

Chairman Conaway, I think rightly, brought up the situation that probably the two issues that are going to require some work are going to be obviously nutrition and also conservation, and the overall money situation. So it was unclear to me how those issues are going to get resolved. But everybody says we’re going to get them resolved, so we’ll see what happens.

More narrowly on the nutrition issue, Rep. Peterson pointed out that, “The nutrition thing, you know, which caused us a lot of problem in the House, what I’m doing with that is I’m really backing out of that whole discussion, and I’ve just told Chairman Conaway that whatever he can work out with the Senate is okay with me.

And I keep hearing from Senator Stabenow that what was done in the House is not going to fly with the Democrats in the Senate, and without the Democrats in the Senate they won’t have a bipartisan bill, which they say they’re going to have, so how that’s going to get worked out is unclear, but hopefully it is. And as I said, whatever they can get the Senate to agree to, I don’t see that I’ll have any problem with that.”

Additionally, Rep. Peterson indicated that, “Well, the thing—and the vote in the Senate, the vote was 30 to 68 on this [SNAP] issue. And the bill passed 86 to 11. So this is what I’ve been telling people for a couple months, that, you know, get real, that if you want a bill, this is where it’s at. And so again, if whatever the Republicans in the House can get the Senate to agree to, I don’t see that I’m going to have any problem with whatever they come up with.”

Meanwhile, on the Senate floor Thursday, Texas GOP Senator John Cornyn stated that, “Although I was proud to support the Senate’s version of the [Farm Bill] legislation, I was somewhat disappointed that it did not include stronger reforms to some of these nutrition programs, including work requirements for people who are able-bodied, or training requirements for people who need additional training, or community service for people who can’t work or don’t want the training but at least provide some service to their local communities.

“I appreciate what the House has done to provide for those work requirements in the bill that my friend, Chairman Conaway, included in the House version.”

Sen. Cornyn added, “While I wish the members of the Conference Committee my best as they try to reach consensus on the Farm Bill, I would encourage them to take another look at Chairman Conaway’s ideas on work requirements.”

Conference committee member Rep. Cheri Bustos (D., Il) noted in an article last week that, “I think it’s important to note that there are already work requirements.  And more than 80 percent of the people who are on the nutrition program do have a job.”

The article stated that, “Bustos, a member of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, is more in line with the Senate’s version, which she calls bipartisan.”

And Conference committee member Rep. Roger Johnson (R., Kans.) stated recently that, “There are 9 million SNAP recipients across the country who are between the ages of 18 and 65 and who have no disability.  I think that a program like that in the House bill, that provides $7 billion for work training, is good policy. I think we have a good chance of helping Senate committee members see that.”

Brandon Moseley reported last week at the Alabama Political Reporter (Montgomery, Ala.) that, “The House Republicans have argued that the work requirements for able bodied SNAP benefits (most Americans still call the benefits ‘food stamps’) will encourage more able-bodied poor people to get jobs and contribute to the booming economy.”

The article added, “‘That is a poison pill that could derail the whole thing,’ [Sen. Doug Jones (D., Ala.)] said.  ‘And we really need a farm bill for our farmers.’”

With respect to the executive branch, Wall Street Journal writer Kristina Peterson reported last week that, “[President Donald Trump] has made clear he prefers the House version but hasn’t indicated how far he is prepared to go for a provision that many believe can’t pass the Senate. The farm bill will need Democratic support in the Senate, where it needs 60 votes to clear procedural hurdles and Republicans hold only 51 seats.”

“Mr. Trump at one point was expected to threaten to veto a bill without the tighter work requirements, but lawmakers said he has yet to deliver such a warning,” the Journal article said.

Conservation

In the “Adams on Agriculture” interview Friday with Rep. Peterson, Mike Adams asked, “What are the issues to be resolved yet on conservation?”

Rep. Peterson stated, “Well, the House made some cuts, and that’s, I think, concerning to the Senate. The House has the merger of the CSP and EQIP program, which I know has concerns in the Senate. And then the CRP issue, you know, is very different in the Senate compared to the House, so I would say those are the three main issues that have to get resolved.

“And I’m not exactly sure how that’s going to get done, but we are going to start having discussions about that, and I’m sure we can get it worked out. It’s just going to take some time.”

Coppess, J., C. Zulauf, B. Gramig, G. Schnitkey and N. Paulson. “Conferencing Conservation: Reviewing Title II of the House and Senate Farm Bills.” farmdoc daily (8):133, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, July 19, 2018. Click Image to Enlarge

Rep. Peterson also indicted that, “I think for us the real deadline is September 30th, which means we have to have this worked out probably by the middle of September so we can get the drafting done and get it to the President’s desk on time. But the problem is if we wait and we don’t get it done by September 30th, then we’ve got to deal with an extension.

And that’s problematic. And is it going to be an extension for a few months, or is it going to be for a year. That gets that all into questions. So that’s not a good option. We need to get this done. We’re all committed to getting it done. And there’s no reason why we can’t get it done. So we just have to work hard and work through these issues.”


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