A Bad House Farm Bill Made Worse

By Nune Phillips

Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a farm bill that would immediately take food off the table of hundreds of thousands of working families, put the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at risk for millions more through underfunded and ineffective barriers billed as work requirements, and force states to erect complex bureaucratic paperwork hurdles. Even more troubling is that the House farm bill’s already-harmful nutrition title was made worse during the floor vote through the passage of several amendments to the bill before it failed.

These changes included an amendment from House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX) that would:

  • Further restrict the criteria allowing states to suspend SNAP’s three-month time limit for non-disabled adults without dependent children, subjecting a greater number of people to this strict rule. 
  • Reduce the portion of people that states have the flexibility to exempt from the three-month time limit from 15 percent to 12 percent, regardless of local economic conditions or the availability of meaningful jobs.
  • Require states to return unused job training funds each year, essentially cutting employment and training funding by $350 million over 10 years. 

High-quality job training programs take time to do well, and the House bill would provide insufficient funding—just $30 per month, per participant—for these services. This amendment would amount to a funding cut that would further limit states’ ability to provide high-quality training services that help low-income individuals find meaningful jobs to support themselves and their families. Coupled with restrictions to state flexibility in suspending the three-month time limit, these changes would make SNAP’s work provisions even worse. 

The House passed additional floor amendments to their flawed bill, including:

  • An amendment from Representative John Faso (R-NY) that would allow states to privatize SNAP operations. This change would allow private companies to take over administration of the program, despite failed attempts in some states over the years. 
  • An amendment from Representative George Holding (R-NC) that would permanently ban people convicted of certain violent crimes from ever receiving SNAP, no matter how long ago their offense. This harmful change would further punish those who have completed their sentence and make it harder to re-enter their communities. This amendment would also penalize their families due to a reduced overall household food benefit. 

With these amendments, the House made a highly partisan and damaging farm bill even worse. Although defeated on the House floor last month, the bill may come up for a re-vote as early as next week. There is however, a better option. The Senate’s bipartisan farm bill, introduced on June 8, protects SNAP and promotes effective employment and training services.

We urge members to continue to stand strong against the House farm bill, which would threaten our nation’s most important food assistance program, and instead support the Senate’s bipartisan approach that strengthens SNAP.