Ag Today April 17, 2018

Urban, rural interests collide, confounding California’s most vulnerable Republicans

BY KATE IRBY, The Sacramento Bee April 17, 2018 12:01 AM

Help the farmers or help the poor?

The farm bill House lawmakers will consider Wednesday forces vulnerable Republicans in contested House races in largely rural districts to make a difficult, perhaps politically lethal choice between the two constituencies.

Reps. David Valadao of Hanford and Jeff Denham of Turlock are California Republicans from such areas. Democrat Hillary Clinton won their districts in 2016. They’re districts that are largely rural with high rates of unemployment and poverty but also rely on Washington’s farm subsidies to help agriculture.

So while most of the farm bill is a continuation of the last one – its main effect in the two districts is providing subsidies for cotton farmers – it also contains what could be political poison as it would impose new restrictions on users of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP.

The bill, sponsored by Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, would require able-bodied adults from ages 18 to 59 who receive food aid through SNAP to find a job or attend job training classes for about 20 hours each week or else lose their benefits. SNAP is the largest federal food assistance program, providing credit for low-income households to buy food, which was formerly known as food stamps.

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