After months as an ideological flashpoint, a toned-down farm bill is on track for bipartisan passage in Congress this week, shorn of a proposal for stricter SNAP work requirements. Enactment won't end debate over the status-quo legislation. "It can't come soon enough and when it comes, it will not be enough," said president Roger Johnson of the National Farmers Union.
Congress is nearly a quarter of the way through its post-election session with no apparent compromise on SNAP work rules or other disputes in the farm bill. Nonetheless, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday that the farm bill is one of two items that “absolutely have to be accomplished” by year’s end.
Congress should have the first, and last, word on stricter work requirements for able-bodied SNAP recipients, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Thursday. The USDA is working on the issue as a regulatory matter, but Perdue told reporters that he would not intrude on legislative prerogatives.
Farm bill negotiators said they expect to pass the $87-billion-a-year legislation in the lame duck session of Congress that opens on Tuesday. “I think we are relatively close,” said Collin Peterson, ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee. “We could have that language ready next week when we come back.”
The midterm elections on Tuesday, giving Democrats control of the House beginning in January, effectively ended a Republican push for stricter SNAP work requirements in the 2018 farm bill. The elections could also be the jolt that breaks the stalemate in Senate-House negotiations over the bill. (No paywall)
Banking on Republican gains in the midterm elections, President Trump said Congress could wait until next year to pass the farm bill because "we don't have enough votes" now for stricter work requirements for millions of SNAP recipients. Trump, who signed an executive order in April calling for new and stronger work requirements for social programs, has sided with House Republicans on the major dispute of the 2018 farm bill, now nearly a month overdue.
The Trump administration’s budget-cutting plans for next year may well include a test, or even a full-scale revival, of “America’s Harvest Box,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Wednesday.
Barring a dramatic breakthrough, farm-state lawmakers will miss their target of enacting the 2018 farm bill in the next six days, according to two of the Senate and House negotiators charged with finding a compromise. SNAP, specifically House Republicans' demands for stricter work requirements for food-stamp recipients, is the major obstacle for the conferees, but there are differences across all sections of the $87-billion-a-year legislation.
There is little point in writing a compromise version of the House and Senate farm bills if it does not include stronger work requirements for food stamp recipients, said analysts from think tanks favoring free enterprise and members of a group of state officials that promotes self-reliance.