Legislative Report … Daniel Nnorth and Claudia Schott

Now that the House has passed their version of the Farm Bill, it has quite a few stipulations that aren’t sitting well with anyone in the Senate……bipartisan negotiations fell apart in the House as Republicans embraced food stamp work requirements bitterly opposed by House Democrats and Senators. Under the controversial House food stamp plan, most adults would have to spend 20 hours per week either working or participating in a state-run training program to receive benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides an average payment of $125 per month to 42.3 million Americans. I wonder if this includes Senior Citizens….? It’s not like we aren’t already working and can’t make ends meet. So, if you don’t work, you don’t eat? What if you CAN’T work? (FYI, there already is a sensible program in place, helping people get training and finding work. It just doesn’t take food stamps away if we aren’t working.)
Now Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee are adding a different “work requirement” to SNAP. In fact, the legislation would deny food assistance to the unemployed. People who through no fault of their own could not find work, or enough hours of work, would become ineligible for the program. They would miss out not only on a paycheck but on food too.
“The things that they have in [the Farm Bill] are mostly to hassle people that are on SNAP. That’s really what it’s about,” Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, said. House Democrats and Senators in both parties have vowed to vote against a plan some say will unfairly increase red tape for low-income Americans.
But House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, said he would defend the provisions during conference committee negotiations, arguing it would be bad politics in an election year for lawmakers to oppose changes aimed at moving people into the workforce.
There is a sense of urgency here. Both versions of the Farm Bill need to be compromised on and renegotiated into one bill to pass both Houses by September. Then it still needs to go to the president to sign. If the new bill does not go into effect by September 30th, and the old law is not extended, a lot of programs will lose their funding, including SNAP. So right now we are all holding our collective breath: farmers, ranchers and food stamp recipients, while the good Representatives of our United States duke it out, street brawl style, most likely. It had already come to that when someone included the family separation controversy…As it stands right now, the two versions of the bill are so far apart in ideology, that any compromise is seemingly unattainable.