Talk is ripe in the nation’s Capital about the 2018 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill is a key component in determining the structure and function of the American food system. The bill covers twelve titles from Commodity Programs to Crop Insurance, from Rural Development to Energy. The bill is also the largest source of funding for national anti-hunger programs, namely the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. SNAP, comprising 80% of Farm Bill expenditures, combats food insecurity and poverty by helping millions of low-income Americans afford a basic diet. With Minnesota being the nation’s fifth largest agricultural producing state and with thousands of its citizens participating in anti-hunger programs, a strong Farm Bill is essential to the state’s well-being and prosperity.
Backed by Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, the Senate bill, titled the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, takes a bipartisan approach to the nutrition title that would reinstate SNAP and revamp program operations. Although few changes were made to SNAP, the proposal would streamline work requirements, making it easier for participants to receive benefits and states to administer them. The bill provides more available resources and funding to strengthen SNAP employment and training programs.
In contrast, the House proposal, titled the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, takes a much different approach to the nutrition title, cutting millions of dollars in SNAP benefits. This overhaul of SNAP would shrink benefits for nearly 1 million American households.
With nearly 621,000 Minnesotans, mostly children, disabled adults, and seniors utilizing SNAP benefits to feed themselves and their families, thousands of Minnesotans could be affected by changes to SNAP. This especially rings true in regards to the House Farm Bill proposal, which would cut SNAP benefits for thousands of Minnesotans, increasing the risk for food insecurity statewide. Of the Minnesotans receiving SNAP benefits, 44 percent are children, 16 percent are adults with disabilities, and 10 percent are seniors, leaving 30 percent of provisions to able-bodied adults. According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, 67 percent of families participating in SNAP are already working.
Both bills take steps to maintain and strengthen healthy food incentives by providing funding to a wide range of programs, such as The Emergency Food Assistance Program which supplements the diets of low-income Americans by providing emergency food. Nutrition education programs through schools and SNAP-Ed would also be funded, teaching low-income households to eat well and live healthier on a limited budget. They would also establish pilot programs that give retailers the means to give SNAP participants incentives when purchasing fruits, veggies, and fluid milk. Finally, it extends a variety of programs targeting healthy food access and choices, such as the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program for schools and institutions.
The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 passed through the Senate Agriculture Committee on June 13th with a bipartisan vote of 20-1. The legislation is expected to be considered by the full Senate before July 4th.
The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 passed the House Agriculture Committee on April 18th, approved by a party-line vote of 26-20, but failed to be passed by the full House. The bill is expected to be reconsidered before July 4th.
Once both bills are passed, a conference committee comprised of House and Senate members combines the bills into a compromise bill. From there, the bill is voted on by both chambers and then sent to the president for a final stamp of approval.
This post was created based on reports generated by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Minnesota Department of Human Services. For more information, visit www.cbpp.org and www.mn.gov/dhs/farm-bill. To access section-by-section summaries of the House and Senate Farm Bill proposals, visit https://www.agriculture.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Section-by-sections%20(Committee%20Print).pdf and/or https://agriculture.house.gov/uploadedfiles/agriculture_and_nutrition_act_of_2018_section_by_section.pdf.