Monday, May 14, 2018

Farm Bill on House floor this week; Republican leaders scramble to find the votes to pass it

The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled vote this week on a Republican-created Farm Bill that includes several controversial amendments, such as deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, once known as food stamps. Agriculture Committee Chair Mike Conaway told Melanie Zanona ofThe Hill that the bill is still short of the 218 votes it needs but "He expressed confidence that he can flip enough members by working the phones over the weekend, clearing up any questions and concerns and pointing out that some amendments will get a floor vote."

"Democrats walked away from the normally bipartisan Farm Bill process when Republicans decided to include the SNAP revamp, which they say is unnecessarily cruel and would prevent 1 million people from receiving food stamps," Zanona reports. "Even the GOP conference is divided over the changes, with some moderate Republicans worried the requirements are too tough and others worried the changes don’t go far enough."

Changes to sugar subsidies are also a divisive issue, and one that regularly cuts across party lines. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., has proposed an amendment to ensure taxpayers don't have to pay for federal bailouts of the sugar industry. But far-right Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., says the amendment would be a "poison pill" that would put the farm bill in jeopardy if it gets to a vote, Zanona reports.

Another controversial provision: stricter work requirements on some food stamp recipients. "All able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 59 have to be working or enrolled in a training program for at least 20 hours per week in order to qualify for food stamps," Zanona reports. "People who are elderly, disabled or pregnant would be exempt from the requirements."

Dairy farmers, who have been facing hard times lately, will get some attention in the farm bill too with changes to the Dairy Margin Protection Program. The program has been criticized for not adequately reimbursing farmers hurt by falling milk prices. The farm bill proposal "the amount of milk that can qualify for coverage from four to six million pounds and made the payout monthly," Whitney Bashaw reports for The Daily Star in Oneonta, New York. It will also "strike 'margin protection' to replace it with 'dairy risk management.' The Dairy Margin Protection Program will be renamed Dairy Risk Management. Additionally, dairy producers will now be eligible to participate in the Livestock Gross Margin Insurance Plan for Dairy Cattle, which legislators said can provide flexibility for farmers."

No comments: