Food assistance program divides Farm Bill conference committee as deadline nears
Far from the wheat fields and family dinner tables, members of Congress are meeting in Washington this week to make the 2018 Farm Bill a reality.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Far from the wheat fields and family dinner tables, members of Congress are meeting in Washington this week to make the 2018 Farm Bill a reality.
“I am focused on helping people make sure they have food security,” said U.S. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Pa.), a member of the Farm Bill Conference Committee.
The Farm Bill is sort of a catch-all package of legislation for farmers and food that’s passed every five years. That includes a growing battle between both parties and chambers over the supplemental food program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as "food stamps". The House version would require recipients to work or job train for 20 hours a week. However, the Senate’s version did not. So far, there is no clear resolution.
Thompson, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, is one of 47 House members and nine Senators is among those on the conference committee. And as chair of the House Subcommittee on Nutrition, he’s in favor of those changes.
“We want you to be able to access skills-based education to be able to get a family-sustaining jobs,” Thompson said Thursday. “Ultimate food security comes from family-sustaining jobs.”
“We see this Farm Bill as a chance to make common-sense reforms to shift our federal benefits system to one that incentivizes work,” Speaker Paul Ryan said during his Wednesday news conference.
It’s perhaps the biggest hurdle for the conference committee to clear. Top Democrats on the committee have signaled they won’t give in easily on the SNAP issue.
“Nobody in this room is going to get everything he or she wants,” House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson said during the committee’s initial public meeting Wednesday.
“This process is about compromise.”
But there is some apparent compromise happening already.
The current version of the bill would also boost support for Market Access Programs for farmers. The program helps their products reach all corners of the globe. It’s welcome assistance after tariffs implemented by the Trump administration sparked a trade war this summer, costing farmers an estimated $11 billion this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“It gives them the technical assistance, it helps them with the networking for that,” Thompson explained about MAP. “It’s an important part of the Farm Bill.”
The clock is ticking for Congress to get all of this done by the September 30 deadline. The House has just seven work days left between now and the end of the month.