- Economic Justice
Advocating for the Best Farm Bill
The House and Senate Agriculture Committees may have begun work on the farm bill a year ago, but things really started heating up in Congress earlier this year. Each committee crafted its own farm bills with different approaches, especially when it came to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps).
The competing bills, already passed by the Senate and the House, are now in conference or in negotiations to reconcile their differences. The farm bill, estimated to cost up to $867 billion for the Senate version, must be authorized every five years.
This year’s House farm bill (H.R. 2) drastically restructures SNAP. It tightens the already strict time limits for people who are unable to find or keep steady work. It creates a huge new bureaucracy that will siphon money away from helping people put food on the table. Programs to promote employment so people can eat will be under-funded.
In sharp contrast, the Senate Agriculture Committee created a bill that protects and strengthens SNAP. It expands pilot programs for underserved populations and better connects SNAP recipients with effective job training. Unlike the partisan House version, the Senate version of the farm bill is supported by members of both parties.
The quality of these two farm bills can be seen in their votes: The House, after failing to pass it once, passed its bill by a margin of two votes entirely along party lines. The Senate passed its bill by a vote of 86-11, one of the most bipartisan votes in the history of the farm bill.
Throughout the farm bill process, I am thankful for the support of FCNL’s networks. Your contacts with your members of Congress make it easier for me to lobby them on Capitol Hill. I am also grateful to our coalition partners for helping drive home the importance of SNAP.
All our efforts are critical to educating members of Congress on the negative consequences that come from unnecessarily strict work requirements and tightening time limits.
The lame duck session of Congress is a critical time to determine the outcome of the negotiations. As we wait for the results, we will continue to push for a farm bill that strengthens SNAP and helps struggling families put food on the table.