Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., both blamed House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, on Wednesday for delaying the farm bill, but Conaway fired back that this was not the time “for finger pointing.”
Roberts said he wants the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Agriculture committees to sign a conference agreement on Thursday, but that Conaway still has lingering concerns with six titles, Politico reported.
McConnell: Farm bill absolutely must be completed in lame duck session
The “four corners,” the lead congressional negotiators on the bill, are expected to meet today, to keep the legislation moving, said an ag lobbyist. If they can agree on some points, staff workers could piece together elements of the bill during Thanksgiving week. Congress will be out of town next week and resume work on Nov. 26.
House Republicans are pressing for stricter work requirements and changes to eligibility rules for food stamp recipients. Proponents, such as House Agriculture chairman Michael Conaway, say work requirements will move able-bodied adults into jobs and start them up the employment ladder. Not so, says the think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Its review of work requirements for federal welfare “suggests that these policies would harm millions of individuals and families, more of whom face significant obstacles to employment, while producing few lasting gains in employment.”
“Government certainly has a role to play in creating pathways to work for individuals who face significant employment barriers, but taking their food, healthcare, and housing assistance away is not the path forward,” said the CBPP.
Mathematica Policy Research examined two House GOP proposals to change the way benefits are calculated. It said that one, involving how to account for utility costs, would mean an average loss of $54 to $79 in monthly food stamps for 4 to 5 percent of SNAP households, and would push more households below the poverty line. The other proposal, which would allow a larger earnings deduction for SNAP participants, would mean a $10-a-month increase in benefits for 20 percent of SNAP households.
Jay Vroom, former chief executive of the trade group CropLife America, put the chance of farm bill enactment this year at 65 percent, reported Delta Farm Press. “I think we have a pretty good chance of getting the bill done while Republicans are still in charge,” Vroom said at the Southern Crop Production Association meeting on Tuesday. Texas agriculture commissioner Sid Miller said, “I think the changes to the SNAP program [proposed by House Republicans] will not be in” the final version of the farm bill.
House Republicans elected Kevin McCarthy of California as their leader for the new session of Congress. Speaker Paul Ryan will retire at the end of the year. Ryan has been an advocate of stricter SNAP work requirements, as has Steve Scalise, who will be the No. 2 GOP House leader next year.
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