Ag Today June 19, 2018

Fight Over Food Stamps Among Big Hurdles Facing Farm Bill

If everything goes according to plan this month, House leaders will round up the necessary Republican votes to pass the chamber’s 2018 farm bill after an unexpected defeat on the floor put the legislation on hold.

The failed May 18 vote marked the second time in five years that a farm bill ran into obstacles in the House. In the Senate, meanwhile, leaders have indicated they want to pass the bipartisan legislation by the July Fourth recess.

It is too early to tell if the road ahead will be smooth or rocky for the House and Senate Agriculture chairmen and ranking members in negotiating a final compromise bill. Lawmakers in the past boasted about it as bipartisan legislation that took care of low-income people in urban centers and beyond with food stamps, and helped rural communities and farmers whose incomes are at the mercy of the ebb and flow of the market.

But recent history shows the difficulty for both parties in navigating the political and regional differences to hash out a new bill that will cost taxpayers nearly $430 billion over five years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The current law took three years of negotiations before going to President Barack Obama in 2014. There were fights over the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, proposed limits on crop insurance, farm subsidy payments and dairy policy.

This year’s House fight over the GOP effort to restructure SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, from a nutrition program into a labor initiative has overshadowed other potential areas of dispute that are likely to emerge, including whether or not big farm operations or extended family members on farms should get government subsidies.

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