Farm Bill: Updates and Proposals

May 9, 2018
By: 
Jack Cobb, Domestic and Environmental Policy Advisor

Updated May 8, 2018: The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, commonly known as "the farm bill," is one of the most important pieces of legislation that Congress develops, and the programs under it have a national and global impact. As occurs roughly every five years, Congress is in the process of renewing this bill. The following information will help you to navigate what's being proposed and take action.

What's in the farm bill?

Contained within the bill are provisions for international food assistance, conservation and environmental measures, research, and domestic food assistance, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which provides assistance to 1 out of every 8 Americans. The SNAP program, at less than a $1.75 per meal, supports working individuals and families and helps those who rely on the program to keep food on their plates.

Are there plans to improve SNAP?

In 2014, Congress funded a series of pilot programs to learn more about how people transition into family-supporting jobs. This bipartisan plan provided hundreds of millions of dollars in ten states to test a variety of methods to encourage or speed a family's transition to more consistent and reliable higher-paying work. These pilot programs will begin providing data and real-world results in the coming years, data that can be used to make evidence-based reforms and improvements to SNAP.

Unfortunately, the House of Representatives is trying to move forward with reforms prior to receiving findings from the pilot programs. Instead, the currently proposed reforms would significantly increase SNAP's bureaucratic barriers; change the age that full-time parenting is permitted to only cover up to seven years old; and revoke the right of states to make adjustments to the program based on local conditions. These changes are expected to result in more than one million families losing food assistance.

The funding that currently goes to feed hungry families would be redirected to workforce development programs, although the funding would be insufficient to meet demand among those who rely on SNAP. The Congressional Budget Office determined that even after ten years, the money would fall short to provide training to all those in need. Families will lose access to food assistance, yet there will not be enough resources for individuals to earn associates' degrees or other industry recognized credentials necessary to earn family supporting wages in the modern economy.

Further, the program would require more paperwork and bureaucracy for families and government. Those who were part of the program would need to verify employment monthly, rather than once every six months, increasing the likelihood of errors or simply not managing to submit paperwork on time and losing access to food as a result.

Does SNAP work?

The SNAP program, at less than a $1.75, per meal, supports working individuals and families. Demand for SNAP increased during the Great Recession, but demand has decreased since 2014. SNAP provides critical support to working families, as wages remain stagnant and insufficient public investment in public education contributes to a growing skills gap. In fact, most non-disabled, non-elderly adults receiving SNAP are working within a month and 74% are working within a year, for households with children 65% work within a month and 87% within a year.

Take Action!

The Senate is moving forward with a bipartisan farm bill, and they already said they do not want to consider the House bill as written.

Join the Episcopal Church in urging the House to reject their current farm bill draft and develop a bipartisan, evidence based, bill.