With the support of the Trump administration, the Republican-controlled House wrote welfare reform into the farm bill. Now, GOP leaders say they will call a vote as early as Tuesday in the House for a face-to-face confrontation with the Senate over broader and more rigorous work requirements affecting an estimated 7 million food stamp recipients.
The Senate set up a confrontation with the House over U.S. food and farm policy for the next five years with a 2-to-1 rejection of punitive work requirements for SNAP recipients on Thursday. Senators defeated a proposal for a 25-hour-a-week work requirement for able-bodied adults shortly before passing their bipartisan farm bill, 86-11.
The Senate farm bill will clamp down on payments to so-called managers who live in town and exercise little control over farm operations, announced the leaders of the Agriculture Committee on Wednesday. Still to be resolved was a proposal to make the wealthiest farmers pay more for federally subsidized crop insurance.
Although Congress is weeks or even months away from sending the 2018 farm bill to President Trump for enactment, the end of the road is near for reformers, whose last chance lies in the Senate. The crop insurance industry, a popular target for fiscal hawks and other critics, is asking senators to vote against "amendments that would do significant harm" to the federally subsidized program during debate that could end with Senate passage of the bill this week.
Thanks to speedy action by the Agriculture Committee, the Senate is on track to pass its five-year farm bill before the end of June, boosting the chances that the Republican-controlled Congress will enact the major legislation before election-year tensions stymie work later this year.
Congress can "restore common-sense rules and fiscal integrity" to the farm program by setting a $125,000-per-person limit on farm subsidies, said seven farm advocacy groups in advance of the Senate Agriculture Committee vote today on its farm bill. Rather than give his own opinion, the sponsor of the $125,000 limit told reporters to ask chairman Pat Roberts about the chances it will become part of the bill.
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley wants to tighten down access to U.S. farm subsidies, a lightning-rod issue as Congress tries to update ag and public nutrition programs this year. "Why can't we require farmers who collect huge sums of money from the government to actually work on the farm?" said Grassley on Monday, arguing for a "hard" cap of $125,000 per person in annual payments and restricting payments to farmers, their spouses and one manager per farm, regardless of size.
The Senate Agriculture Committee will vote next week on a bipartisan farm bill that makes few changes to food stamps, farm supports, and crop insurance, a marked contrast to the decision by House Republicans to pursue welfare reform in their farm bill.
The USDA has a "glaring loophole" in its farm subsidy rules that allows people to collect up to $125,000 a year in subsidies for providing farm management, said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who is trying to get a tougher set of rules into law.
A corn, soybean and rice operation collected $3.7 million in crop subsidies in 2015, said the Government Accountability Office in a report on USDA's rule limiting subsidies to people "actively engaged" in farming. The rule requires members of general partnerships and joint ventures to provide land, capital or equipment to a farm and also labor or management.