2 votes was all it took.
On Thursday, June 21, the Farm Bill narrowly passed in the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 213-211. The $867 billion package would renew the safety net for farmers across the country but it would also include a highly controversial work provision for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
The increased requirements for SNAP recipients state that the millions of Americans receiving food assistance through the government program must work 20 hours per week and partake in job training programs or lose the benefits.
The current farm bill, which is renewed every five years, expires Sept. 30, 2018.
The bill reportedly has been met with constant criticism by Democrats, who argue the new work requirements for SNAP recipients are cruel and would cause food insecurity for millions of Americans. In his NPR article posted on Thursday, June 21, 2018, Brakkton Booker cited the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities, who estimates the cuts and changes “would eliminate or reduce food assistance to more than one million low-income households.”1
The second roadblock reported is the unanimous vote by Democrats against the bill because of the increased work requirements for SNAP recipients. Additionally, the House rejected a previous version of the bill on Friday, June 15, 2018, after 30 Republicans, many of whom make up the House Freedom Caucus, voted against the bill after they “failed to get concessions on spending and a future vote on immigration in exchange for their support.”2
During a recent appearance on C-Span, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-NC, said: “You know, 76 percent of this farm bill has nothing to do with farms. When you look at that, 24 percent of it actually is about farms and supporting our farmers.”
While the headline of the fight circulates the issues surrounding the SNAP program, rural Americans are the ones who will feel the most pain if lawmakers can’t pass a farm bill on time.
After the vote, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said: “[T]he farm bill is critically important to give the agriculture community some much-needed reassurance.”
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-TX, pointed to the farmers and their struggles in the middle of this political fight. “Being able to get the farm bill done on time would help alleviate a modest amount of some of that anxiety, and Rural America deserves us getting it done on time.”
How quickly Congress delivers a final bill to President Trump to sign reportedly will depend on the House and Senate negotiators reconciling their differences.
Now that the House has passed its version of the bill, it is now up to the Senate to act. The Senate’s options are to vote on its own version of the bill or to adopt the House’s version. If the Senate chooses to create its own version of the farm bill, a subsequent possibility is that the bill may go to a conference committee (a committee of the United States Congress appointed by the House of Representatives and Senate to resolve disagreements on a particular bill, usually composed of senior members of the standing committees of the House and Senate that originally considered the legislation) to resolve the differences and get a final version voted on and to President Trump’s desk.