FarmPolicy

February 23, 2019

Farm Bill; Ag Economy; and, Immigration

Farm Bill: SNAP

Billy House reported yesterday at National Journal Online that, “Halloween week kicks off in Congress with two issues long haunted by delays, as House and Senate conferees start separate negotiations Wednesday on a budget plan and a farm-bill reauthorization.

Opening remarks from participants are expected to define most of the early action.”

Mr. House noted that, “One main difference between the Senate and House [Farm] bills is that the Senate bill retains the 1938 and 1949 farm laws as the basis for agricultural programs while the House bill would make the 2013 commodity title permanent law.

“Another big difference is that the Senate bill cuts only $4 billion over 10 years from food stamps—formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—while the House bill would cut $39 billion through a series of provisions that Democrats say will lead to increased hunger.

“In what may be a sign of the turbulence ahead, Speaker John Boehner appointed Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., to the conference committee even though he doesn’t serve on the Agriculture Committee. And it is Southerland who has made food stamps his main issue and wrote the amendment to the House bill to which the Democrats object the most.”

Jim McTague reported today at Barron’s Online that, “But if you are more into cage boxing, or if you happen to own shares of big-box retailers like Wal-Mart or a major supermarket chain, then another conference committee — the one charged with stitching together a bipartisan, five-year, $500 billion agricultural bill — definitely is the one for you.

“Here, the Republican Party’s brawling, penurious conservative wing is gearing up for another bone-crushing confrontation with the Democratic Party’s bleeding-heart liberals as well as with some of the more moderate members of its own party. This time, the battle is over the proper size of cuts to the food-stamp program, known nowadays as SNAP — for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Republicans want to isolate SNAP from the farm bill so it can’t be used as a hostage in negotiations over other controversial provisions like sugar supports. Then they want to cut the food-aid program by $39 billion over 10 years. Democrats are offering to cut roughly $4 billion over the same time frame, and they want the program left in the farm bill. Acrimony already is running high on both sides, so bridging that $35 billion gap will be difficult. This has supermarkets and grocery chains on pins and needles because their SNAP revenues are not minuscule. In a sense, SNAP has become as much of a crutch for food retailers during this period of sluggish growth as it is for the poor.”

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