Before leaving Washington for the holidays, more than a dozen House Democrats stood in front of the USDA headquarters on the Mall to register their opposition to Trump administration regulations that would eliminate food stamps for 3.7 million people. Rules Committee chairman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, one of the foremost defenders of SNAP, raised the possibility of a congressional lawsuit against the cuts.
With time short for agreement on the farm bill, House Republicans are insisting on a stronger work requirement as a condition of eligibility for SNAP. Over the weekend, House Speaker Paul Ryan said, "[H]aving a work requirement in food stamps, having an education requirement in food stamps, is the best possible way" to put Americans to work.
When farm bill negotiators get down to business, the 47 House "conferees" will face an unusually big-caliber Senate team, with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as one of its members, a rare role for the leader. Senate Agriculture Committee leaders, in cheering the formal appointment of their nine negotiators, used "bipartisan" to describe their approach and take a swipe at the Republican-written House farm bill and its proposal to require more people to work 20 hours a week to qualify for food stamps.
The work requirements for SNAP recipients proposed by House Republicans "would cause more than a million low-income households with about 2 million people — particularly low-income working families with children —- to lose their benefits altogether or have them reduced," said Robert Greenstein, the head of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "We really believe they need to go back to the drawing board," saying the package is too poorly designed to be salvaged by amendment.
Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan unveiled a bill to make crop insurance available at lower cost to beginning farmers, and to make it easier for diversified farmers to get insurance. Less than 50 percent of small farmers, including organic, livestock, fruit and vegetable, and direct-to-consumer operations, have crop insurance, says a small-farm advocacy group.