January 28, 2020

Farm Bill; and, Trade

Categories: Farm Bill /Trade

Farm Bill- Policy Issues

The House Rules Committee convened yesterday and began a discussion relating to the Farm Bill (H.R. 1947).

At yesterday’s meeting, Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) fielded several general questions about the legislation and provided an overview of some key variables of the law.

In an exchange with Rep. Rob Woodall (R., Ga.), Chairman Lucas noted changes contained in the Bill that impact the commodity title, as well as the SNAP program, and indicated that the Ag Committee sought “to achieve a balance.”

“What I think Collin and I and the committee attempted to do on the commodity side was to say that certain policies such as the old direct payment program from 1996, while it might still be the most WTO trade compliant law, was unsustainable in the eyes of the membership and eyes of the popular press, which sometimes doesn’t always get into the details,” Chairman Lucas said.

With respect to the nuances of the changes in SNAP, Chairman Lucas explained that: “Now in some things like ‘Cat El’ that the ranking member alluded to, categorical eligibility, there are a number of states, 40 something, approximately, that use some law from the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 to say that if you qualify for certain federal welfare benefits, you automatically get food stamps.  We simply say in the bill you’ve got to apply—demonstrate your income, demonstrate your assets and we’ll help you, but you’ve just got to apply.”

Chairman Lucas added that, “LIHEAP [Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program] is a program where a handful of states have used the flexibility of the ’96 law to say that if we are helping you with your home heating costs, then you can automatically qualify for a full month’s worth of food stamps.  In the bill we simply say, not to take away a state’s ability to decide how they should use their own resources, we simply say instead of sending out one dollar to get a full month’s worth of food stamps, you have to send out $20.  That saves about $8 billion.”