Negotiations continued last week on the farm bill with the houses divided. Its possible Congress could delay a final deal until a post-election “lame-duck” session. (Lame duck because several legislators will be at the end of their terms due to retirement or defeat and will be consider lame in power due to their inability to deliver or oppose issues in future congresses since they won’t be in office.)

The Senate passed its version of the Agriculture Reauthorization with a bipartisan 86 votes while the House version passed on the strength of Republican votes. In dispute are some of the nutrition program cuts in the House bill and its increase in work requirements beyond what the SNAP program already requires. In a September 14 tweet, the President criticized Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) for “fighting tooth and nail” against the House bill. Senator Stabenow, Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee pointed out to the President that the Senate bill had strong bipartisan support. The President did not take aim against the other three committee leaders despite the fact that Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) is aligned more with the Stabenow position than House Republicans.

Some members of the House, up for reelection are looking for passage of a reauthorization as a way to provide relief to some farmers being hurt by trade-war tariffs. The House approved their farm bill (HR 2) with SNAP/food stamp restrictions by a vote of 213-211. Two of the biggest changes were the inclusion of additional work requirements under SNAP (food stamps) and some other nutrition program restrictions that opponents argue will end up denying access to various nutrition programs and result in cuts.

Estimates are that the House bill will cut SNAP by $19 billion. CWLA opposes the House bill along with a wide range of children’s groups. Among the reason for opposition by children’s groups:

• restrictions on categorical eligibility meaning a costly and delayed process of asset testing for SNAP which means many families will lose eligibility because of process;
• increased restrictions on SNAP which results in some poor and low-income children losing access to school meals;
• more restrictive work requirements that change existing SNAP work requirements harming childless adults which in turn could harm vulnerable youth;
• indirectly hitting up to 13 million school-aged children on SNAP because it expands work requirements to adults with school-aged children; and along with youth aging out of foster care, unaccompanied, homeless youth.
In the last few days there has been increased talk of a short term extension and that will likely be decided this week if the House leave if and after the President signs the Defense-HHS-CR legislation.