By just two votes, the House of Representatives on Thursday passed its version of the farm bill that renews protections for farmers across the country, but also includes tougher conditions for recipients of food stamps.
The $867 billion GOP-backed measure covering farm and food policy legislation passed 213-211, including a “yea” vote from Congressman Jeff Denham, who serves as a member on the Committee on Agriculture.
“We must protect our farmers and farmland to keep the Central Valley productive for future generations,” Denham said. “This bill protects the Valley’s interests and will help keep our ag industry on a path towards continued expansion and success.”
As one of the top producing agricultural areas in the nation, the Central Valley produces more than $6 billion worth of food in just Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties alone. The 2018 farm bill includes provisions to support farmers through maintained crop insurance programs, investment in working-lands conservation, improved programs for specialty crops including research, block grants, technical assistance and marketing and promotion programs, and a new National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program to protect the health of our nation’s livestock sector.
The bill originally failed to pass the House just a month ago, as the most divisive elements of the legislation include new, stricter work rules for able-bodied adults in the food stamp program, which provides an average of $125 per month in grocery money to 42.3 Americans. Under the new farm bill, adults will have to spend 20 hours per week either working of participating in a state-run training program to receive benefits.
Many states, Democrats argued, do not have the ability to scale up case management or training programs to this extent and as a result, they believe thousands of low-income adults could lose benefits.
Republicans believe the plan is a way to make low-income adults more self-sufficient, ensuring the government is investing in the nation’s workforce and giving SNAP recipients the tools and guidance to put themselves on a trajectory for economic mobility.
With farming income on the decline over the past few years, the bill also takes care to provide support for farmers with a strengthened safety net. The bill authorizes and restores funding for trade promotion and market development tools while maintaining authority for the Secretary of Agriculture to provide assistance to farmers and ranchers affected by unfair foreign trading practices.
“Today’s vote was about keeping faith with the men and women of rural America and about the enduring promise of the dignity of a day’s work,” House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway said. “It was about providing certainty to farmers and ranchers who have been struggling under the weight of a five-year recession and about providing our neighbors in need with more than just a hand out, but a hand up. I’m proud of what this body has accomplished, and now look forward to working with the Senate and the president to deliver a farm bill on time to the American people.”