Monday, May 21, 2018

Defeat of Farm Bill in House may push renewal into 2019, which might not be bad politics for Republicans

The defeat of a new Farm Bill in the House on Friday may push the renewal process past the Sept. 30 expiration date of the current law, much like what happened in 2013. Then the fight was over big cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, once called food stamps. This time it's not only SNAP, it's immigration, an issue that divides Republicans.

"A revolt by Republican conservatives defeated a new Farm Bill calling for stricter work requirements for food-stamp recipients and looser payment limit rules for farmers. Once again, the delay may stretch into the new year," Chuck Abbott reports for Successful Farming. Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, ranking Democrat on the Agriculture Committee, told him that "What we'll end up with is an extension" of the current law: “Our side is not going to live with this work requirement stuff.” But committee chair Michael Conaway of Texas told Abbott that SNAP work requirements “absolutely” must be part of the bill. The Senate is not expected to accept them.

Conaway's bill would require “work capable” adults ages 18 to 59 to work or take job training at least 20 hours a week, and tight eligibility rules. "Democrats said the combination would push 2 million people off of SNAP," Abbott notes. Economist Vince Smith of Montana State University told Abbott, “In many ways, no bill is the better outcome for many Republicans. Instead, they can just vote for an extension through, say, March 31 of next year. That way, the House Republicans with urban constituencies can avoid being tarred with a vote to reduce the scope of food stamps.”

Abbott reports, "Meanwhile, on the farm side of the bill, an array of fiscal hawks, good-government advocates, environmentalists, and libertarian think tanks attacked provisions to make cousins, nieces, and nephews eligible for up to $125,000 a year in farm subsidies and to remove payment limits on some forms of corporate farming."

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