In a win for Democrats, farm bill compromise that does not punish hungry people ready for passage
The Senate has won in one of its major fights with the House and Trump administration this year: they prevailed in the farm bill, negotiating a compromise that does not include a controversial provision from the House version that would impose stricter work requirements on people receiving help through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
The good news here is the bill is now clear to pass in both chambers, and the 40 million people who rely on SNAP benefits to be able to eat won’t also have to jump through all the hoops of work requirements. However, there’s a bad part. Trump will sign the bill because he has a plan in the works: “the Agriculture Department is preparing to give them a win by releasing a rule expected to make it harder for states to waive existing work requirements for able-bodied adult SNAP recipients. In effect, it is a way to make work rules more stringent without congressional approval.” That’s much like the effort the administration is making to allow Republican states to impose work requirements on the Medicaid program—when they can’t do it legislatively, they’ll try to do it through regulation. That’s a fight for next year, and one that will largely have to take place within individual states.
There’s more good news in the compromise bill. It doesn’t include the extremely odious attacks on the environment that were included in the House version. It continues the Conservation Stewardship Program, which encourages farmers and ranchers to set aside environmentally sensitive lands, although the program will endure budget cuts. It doesn’t include dozens of provisions in the House version that did things like lift restrictions on pesticides and weaken the Endangered Species Act.
Trump is expected to sign it, because he’s not going to get anything more out of it with a Democratic-controlled House next year. It’s one of the reasons the conference committee was able to come to agreement relatively quickly on the massive bill—Republicans have incentive to finish it now, with the handful of concessions they’ve secured.