Capital Thinking: Agriculture and Food

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LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITY

 

House Nutrition Title Bill

Last week, the House passed its nutrition title bill, the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act of 2013 (H.R. 3102), by a vote of 217 to 210. The bill would cut Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) funding by $39 billion over the next 10 years, and would make many major reforms to SNAP, by doing the following:

  • Restricting categorical eligibility to cash assistance;
  • Prohibiting SNAP marketing;
  • Closing the home heating assistance loophole;
  • Eliminating the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ability to grant state requests to waive work requirements for childless adults; and
  • Expiring in 2016, requiring reauthorization two years ahead of farm programs.

The bill was subject to a closed rule, and so floor debate saw no amendments. On the floor last Thursday, September 19, Democrats argued that the bill would take food from society’s most vulnerable populations, and presented individual stories of SNAP recipients. Republicans sought to reframe the debate and focused on how the changes would create economic opportunities. No Democrats voted for the bill, and 15 Republicans voted against it.

Farm Bill Timeline

Now that the House has passed its nutrition title bill, conferencing could begin as soon as October, but many obstacles remain. The House still needs to appoint conferees (which we expect could happen after October 1), but the House also must address the fact that its “farm bill” is now actually divided across two bills, which would require additional procedural hurdles before the House can conference the two bills with the Senate-passed farm bill. Additionally, even if both chambers successfully reach conference on the bill, they will have to address major—and likely insurmountable—gaps between the bills, the largest being the $35 billion difference in SNAP cuts. Due to these obstacles, it is highly unlikely that conferees will be able to come to a compromise on the legislation, and the Farm Bill will most likely see a one-to-two year extension.

Last Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, September 24: The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard will hold a hearing to examine the role of certification in rewarding sustainable fishing.