House Passes Farm Bill, Includes Major Modifications to SNAP

On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an $867 billion Farm Bill Reauthorization (H.R. 2) on a 213-211 vote. The measure, which encompasses wide-ranging topics such as nutrition assistance, agricultural research, crop subsidies, and rural development, faced a tumultuous journey in making it through the House. Recall last month, the Farm Bill failed passage after members of the House Freedom Caucus came out against GOP leadership after the measure became entangled with an unrelated debate over immigration.

H.R. 2 includes significant modifications to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and SNAP-Education (SNAP-Ed). The measure would consolidate SNAP-Ed funding with the existing Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and shift funding from state and local agencies to state land grant universities. In California, a large portion of SNAP-Ed funding goes to the California Department of Public Health, and in turn, to local health departments. The arrangement has allowed SNAP-Ed programming and activities to occur in virtually all jurisdictions throughout the state in thousands of community-based sites.

Also included in H.R.2 are provisions that would modify SNAP work requirements and eligibility modifications. The measure increases the age for work requirements, now proposing to require all able-bodied adults between 18 and 59 years old to work or be enrolled in a job training program for at least 20 hours per week to remain eligible for benefits. Beneficiaries that are elderly, disabled, or pregnant would be exempt from these requirements.

The Senate has its own version of the Farm Bill Reauthorization, which does not include modifications to SNAP or SNAP-Ed. The Senate’s measure could be voted upon as early as next week and passage is widely expected. Significant challenges are anticipated when the two measures head to conference where they must be reconciled by both houses. With the current Farm Bill set to expire on September 30, it remains to be seen how Congress will act on this major piece of legislation.