Senate passes compromise farm bill that protects food stamps

News Senate passes compromise farm bill that protects food stamps Senate passes compromise farm bill that protects food stamps

Sabrina Eaton – December 11, 2018

WASHINGTON, D. C. – The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed a compromise farm bill that drops a conservative drive for stricter food stamp work requirements. The measure was adopted in a 87 to 13 vote with backing of both Ohio’s U.S. Senators.

Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, who helped negotiate a bipartisan deal between divergent drafts of the bill adopted by the House and Senate, said the new measure contains “important wins” for the state’s dairy, corn and soybean farmers and will improve water quality in Lake Erie by helping to prevent agricultural runoff.

He said the bill avoids “harmful eligibility changes” pushed by House Republicans that would have made working families “jump through unnecessary bureaucratic hoops” to obtain Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Democrats opposed the proposed changes to the program that subsidizes food purchases for low-income American and reversing them was key to obtaining their support.

Brown said the SNAP program helps farmers as well as the “hundreds of thousands of Ohioans who are working hard and playing by the rules but simply can’t get ahead.”

“Keep in mind how many people who make $8 and $10 and $12 an hour, who work as hard as any of us and yet fall far short of being able to take care of their families with rent, expenses and food,” said Brown.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated the House bill’s would have excluded about 1.5 million people nationwide from SNAP. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 42 million people participated in the program in 2017 at a cost of around $68 billion.

Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman said the bill would provide Ohio farmers with “the certainty and predictability they deserve,” promote rural economic development, fight pollution in the Great Lakes and and fund opioid addiction treatment in rural areas. He said the bill includes amendments he authored to promote rural broadband access and to ensure that Central State University in Wilberforce has access to federal funding under the Farm Bill like other 1890 land-grant institutions.

“I look forward to President Trump signing this legislation into law to support Ohio’s farmers and our agriculture industry,” said a statement from Portman.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue released a statement upon the bill’s release that said it would maintain a strong safety net for the farm economy, invest in critical agriculture research and promote farm exports through robust trade programs. If Congress passes the bill, he said he will encourage President Donald Trump to sign it.

“While we would have liked to see more progress on work requirements for SNAP recipients and forest management reforms, the conference agreement does include several helpful provisions and we will continue to build upon these through our authorities,” Purdue’s statement said.

Brown said measures in the bill that will help Ohio include a provision he championed that would provide funding to help farmers sell their products locally, a program that prioritizes enrolling lands in a Conservation Reserve Program to prevent agricultural runoff that causes algal blooms and protect water quality, and enhanced support for small and medium-sized dairy producers.

Other negotiators released statements to back the compromise and predict it will swiftly pass Congress and become law.

“America’s farmers and ranchers are weathering the fifth year of severe recession, so passing a farm bill this week that strengthens the farm safety net is vitally important,” said a statement from House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway of Texas.

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