Last month, the House Agriculture Committee introduced their draft of the proposed 2018 Farm Bill. On Friday, May 18th, the House’s draft 2018 Farm Bill was voted down 198-213. As our friends at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition stated, this House version was “one of the most anti-farmer bills ever seen.”
The farm bill, also known as the Agricultural Act, is the food and agricultural budget and policy for the United States. The current bill includes twelve titles that impact farming commodities and livelihood, conservation, trade, rural development, energy, research, horticulture, and nutrition. The SNAP program (formerly known as food stamps) receives its funding from the bill under the nutrition title.
There were many major changes proposed in the house version that was defeated, including the expansion of the work requirements for SNAP recipients. The current farm bill states that all able-bodied adults without dependents are required to work until the age of 45 to qualify for the program. The House version of the bill proposed to raise that age to 65 and stipulated new hourly work requirements. The House version was also seeking to increase workforce training among recipients. Able-bodied adults with no dependents would only be allowed to receive SNAP benefits for three months in three years unless they participate in workforce training. In the past, states have waived this training requirement, but the new bill will give states an incentive to stop waiving it. Work requirements such as these disproportionately impact rural and tribal communities that are more limited in access to jobs. The defeated House version also weakened conservation protection and zeroed out funding for important rural development programs and farmers market and local food promotion programs.
It is important that the farm bill remain true to food and farming. It is also important to remember that lives are deeply impacted with a delayed passing of the bill. If the farm bill is not reauthorized by September 30, 2018, farmer livelihood is at stake. Suicide rates among farmers are some of the highest in the nation. We now eagerly await the Senate version of the farm bill. We are hopeful that the Senate version will not be used as a ‘pawn’ against other controversial personal agendas that ultimately resulted in the House version being defeated.
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