The Farm Bill: What Happens Now?
On Friday, May 18, the U.S. House of Representatives voted down H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, or the House Farm Bill by a vote of 198-238. This bill would have caused more than 2 million Americans to see their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) benefits cut or eliminated entirely. Furthermore, it would have created a massive new bureaucracy that would have overwhelmed states, prevented individuals from accessing benefits, and implemented even stricter work requirements, locking people out of the program if they couldn’t comply.
Why did the Farm Bill fail on the House floor? Some argue it was because of the division within the Republican Caucus. But the real reason is H.R. 2 is a bad bill. Forcing people to go without critical nutrition assistance and instead putting those funds towards a new, bloated and unnecessary bureaucracy is bad policy. That’s why the House Farm Bill couldn’t secure enough votes to pass. If House leadership had pursued a bipartisan bill from the start that didn’t make such harmful changes to SNAP, then this situation would have been avoided.
What does this mean going forward?
Because the House Farm Bill failed in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan plans to bring it back for another vote in mid-June. In the meantime, the Senate is creating its own version of a farm bill. We still don’t know when exactly the Senate Agriculture Committee will release its version, however we anticipate it will come in the next few weeks. Unlike the House, both Chairman Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Stabenow (D-MI) have said they want a strong bipartisan bill.
This means that our work isn’t done! Because the Senate is still working on crafting their version of the farm bill and the House is going to vote on their version again, we need to keep up our efforts to push for a bipartisan bill that protects SNAP. We need to make sure that representatives vote against the House Farm Bill and that the Senate pursues a bipartisan bill that protects SNAP from harmful changes or cuts.