NUTRITION // POLICY UPDATE
2018 FARM BILL NEWS: Congress tries to pick up the pieces after latest farm bill failure.
June 1, 2018 / Author: Madison Wall
Thanks to our collective efforts, the 2018 House Farm Bill (HR 2) was defeated on May 18th by a vote of 198 to 218. But the fight to protect hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans from devastating cuts to SNAP is far from over.
FARM BILL: WHAT’S NEXT?
House leadership has scheduled a second vote on the Farm Bill (HR2) on or near June 22. The Senate Agriculture Committee, led by Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) has indicated that it intends to release its version of the Farm Bill at some point in June, but it’s unclear whether that will happen before the next House vote.
The announcement of the Farm Bill revote suggests that House Speaker Paul Ryan hopes to strike a deal over immigration with the Freedom Caucus. If the House Republicans pass the Goodlatte immigration bill, Ryan will most likely urge Republicans to support a similar, if not unchanged, version of HR 2.
Both House and Senate bills must be reconciled by the end of the fiscal year on September 30th, which leaves little time to consider major changes to the farm bill ahead of the August recess. That means that provisions in HR 2 that called for untested, costly, and punitive restrictions on food help for low-income Tennesseans will likely be up for consideration in the June bill—even though Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said that he would be willing to pass a bill that does not increase SNAP restrictions via “work requirements”
BILL HR2: WHAT SHOULD I KNOW?
SNAP helps families put food on the table, improves health, and promotes work, and is available to help families fight deep poverty and food insecurity. While two-thirds of participants are children, elderly, and people with disabilities, who are not expected to work, SNAP also helps workers supplement their low wages and pay for groceries they are between jobs.
HR 2 proposes to massively expand counterproductive “work requirements” for SNAP recipients. For Tennesseans ages 18 to 59, including parents with children over age 6, the bill would cut off food assistance if they can’t prove every month that they are working an average of 20 hours per week. HR 2 would also expand the pool of people subject to the work requirements by including parents with 3-5-year olds. If a person can’t prove they meet these requirements, they will be banned from receiving food help for one year (with the length of the ban increasing to three years after the first violation).
The work requirements in place for unemployed workers without dependents (also known as ABAWDs) are already extensive. In addition to meeting general work requirements for SNAP participation, this population is subject to a second set of time-limited work requirements. Expanding “work requirement” rules is punitive because most SNAP participants who can work, do work, but many low-wage and part-time workers have no control over their work schedules—including how many hours of work are available to them. Millions of workers are in jobs that provide low pay, have shifting schedules, and often lack benefits such as paid sick leave.
By creating time limits, expanding bureaucratic work requirements, cutting SNAP benefits, and increasing administrative burdens on states and families struggling to put food on the table, the HR 2 undermines — not increases — families’ economic self-sufficiency and food security. Cutting off vital food help for people doing everything they can to work and support their families does not support gainful employment. Designing policies based on participants’ lack of a job during SNAP participation misses the fact that many of them are experiencing temporary unemployment, as well as temporary SNAP participation.
HOW CAN I TAKE A STAND FOR TENNESSEANS?
Now is a critical time for all Tennesseans fighting against hunger to make their voices heard in opposition to these harmful proposals. Advocates should weigh in during the recess week (May 26–June 3) and throughout the month of June to urge their Members to make sure the Farm Bill does not take food off the table for Tennesseans in need.
Let your Members know that you stand with groups representing children, women, veterans, seniors, and people with disabilities in wanting Congress to protect and strengthen SNAP.
TO CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVE, CLICK HERE. BELOW IS A SIMPLE SCRIPT YOU CAN USE:
“[Your Rep’s Name] should Vote No on HR 2 (the Farm Bill) that cuts food help for children, working families, seniors, and people with disabilities. Cuts and harmful changes to SNAP that take away struggling Tennesseans’ food have no place in the Farm Bill. [I/We] urge Congress to focus on policies that help create jobs and boost wages, rather than punishing people who are already facing economic hardship. Expanding “work requirement” provisions in HR 2 will make it more difficult for our neighbors to put food on the table and get back on their feet. HR 2 would weaken the best anti-poverty program we have: SNAP, which helps 1 in 6 Tennesseans afford groceries.”
In Case You Missed It
In addition to major changes to the SNAP program, the House Farm Bill proposed changes that would impact school meals, agricultural subsidies, environmental conservation, and states’ abilities to impose standards on agricultural products. Read more here!