Last updated on May 21st, 2018 at 10:47 am
The U.S. House of Representatives failed to pass the $867 billion farm bill today. The vote was 198-213.
According to multiple sources, the failure was due in part to Democrats’ opposition to work requirements for those participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
On the Republican side, the House Freedom Caucus wanted to include immigration solutions in the bill. Members sought giving legal status to so-called “Dreamers” for a few years, building a wall, cutting back on legal immigration, cracking down on sanctuary cities and reforming asylum for minors (Politico).
The bill was not expected to pass the U.S. Senate, which has been working on its own version.
The deadline to pass a farm bill is September 30.
Industry organization’s responses to the bill’s failure have been mixed.
“This bill was a non-starter from its beginnings,” said Monica Mills, executive director of Food Policy Action. “It was written behind closed doors with no bipartisan consultation or input. That is not the way to write a bill that affects every American and the food we eat at every meal every single day.
“Today, we dodged a disastrous farm bill that would have been harmful for millions of Americans. It would have taken food out of the mouths of hungry children in order to pour billions of taxpayer dollars into the already brimming bank accounts of wealthy, big-ag farm operations. It would have closed farmers markets across the country. It would have cut vital conservation programs. We need a farm bill that balances the needs of all Americans.”
National advocacy organization Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger is celebrating this new development.
“The defeat of the Ryan-Conaway Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 is a stunning turn of events,” said Mazon President and CEO Abby J. Leibman. “It is an outcome that we had hoped for but never expected. This is a huge victory for millions of families who would have been devastated by the cuts to SNAP proposed by House Republicans. Today’s vote proves that the approach taken by leadership—drafting legislation in a highly partisan manner and without grounding its proposals in evidence—is unsupportable. It’s now our hope that the House Committee on Agriculture will return to the bipartisan roots of the Farm Bill and work across the aisle to craft a bill together that truly meets the needs of all Americans.”
Feeding America sees this hurdle to the bill’s passage as a chance to revisit some of the proposed changes to SNAP:
“Feeding America remains concerned that cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) included in the bill would increase hunger in America. Today’s vote presents an opportunity for the House to revisit the proposed cuts to federal nutrition assistance, and we urge Members of Congress to work together on a bipartisan basis before reconsideration of the Farm Bill.
“The bill considered in the House, today, was structured to restrict eligibility of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Current SNAP rules already include employment requirements, applicable to individuals determined capable of work. The defeated House bill, however, would have expanded those requirements by including parents with elementary-school-aged children and older adults. At the same time, the bill aimed to reduce the timeline to find employment from three months to only one, an unrealistic expectation given that it takes the average person six months to find a new job. We firmly support the concept of work and fostering self-sufficiency in the SNAP program, but the proposed additional requirements by the House would have done more harm than good. Rather than placing Americans on a path to a better life, they would have created impossible hurdles. Other changes to SNAP eligibility rules would result in millions of children, seniors, veterans, active duty military, and working families losing access to SNAP food assistance.
“While Feeding America’s nationwide network of member food banks distributes more than four billion meals, annually, we simply could not fill the gap the proposed cuts to SNAP would create. For each meal provided by the Feeding America network, SNAP provides 12. If this legislation moves forward, it will mean less food on the table for children, seniors, our honorable veterans and their families and individuals with disabilities.
“Our network member food banks and partners tirelessly advocated on behalf of individuals facing hunger in advance of this vote, but we know our work is not yet done. As the bill process continues in the House and Senate, we encourage leaders in both chambers to approach this legislation from a bipartisan mindset that strong federal nutrition programs are essential building blocks for Americans trying to make ends meet on the pathway to a better life.”
Other organizations expressed their disappointment at the bill’s failure.
“Plain and simple: the farm bill matters,” said American Soybean Association (ASA) President and Iowa soybean grower John Heisdorffer. “U.S. soybean growers and everyone involved in agriculture depend on this vital piece of legislation. This bill provides a farm safety net, improves conservation, places value on exports and feeds our nation.”
ASA was pleased with the outcome of several amendments, including strong votes to defeat amendments that would have eliminated what the organization says are vital farm programs.
“Soybean growers are facing a down farm economy and significant export uncertainty, and are relying on a strong farm bill,” Heisdorffer said. “The House failure to pass a farm bill only adds to the uncertainty across rural America.”