House Agriculture Committee Advances 2018 Farm Bill: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Written by Andrew McNamee, Director of Government Relations

Last Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee advanced its version of the 2018 farm bill (H.R. 2) with a favorable recommendation from the committee. The next step is an expected floor vote in early May, when Congress returns from a week-long recess.

The provisions of the bill addressing international food assistance programs contain some good news for us and the families we serve. Most importantly, the bill text includes removal of the requirement to monetize commodities in Title II of the Food for Peace program. Our Washington, D.C. team met with several offices on the Hill and asked for this requirement to be relaxed, and we’re very happy to see the provision included in the bill’s text!

However, we also asked for elimination or relaxation of “cargo preference” to be included in the bill, and that was absent from the text. “Cargo preference” is the requirement that at least 50% of USG-impelled food shipments be transported on U.S.-flagged vessels. This requirement directs food aid resources away from nutrition assistance towards ocean freight costs, and reduces the number of people who receive timely nutrition support. We are hopeful that cargo preference can still be addressed through an amendment when the bill is taken up on the House floor, and we have begun meeting with offices to push for the amendment to be included.

Although the text addressing international programs has some positives and negatives, the text addressing domestic programs is much more problematic. The bill’s text includes a proposal to eliminate the option for states to utilize “categorical eligibility” for (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) SNAP participation. If a state utilizes this option, it enables people who are already certified as eligible for a certain program, such as Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), to be automatically certified as eligible for SNAP. It helps states cut down on the paperwork required while also reducing the burden on beneficiaries. The proposal to eliminate “categorical eligibility” reduces flexibility for states while increasing the burden on program beneficiaries, with no expected cost savings other than qualified people choosing not to avail themselves of the program.

The bill also proposes to alter the work requirement exception for parents with children. Currently, parents with children aged 12 and under are excepted from work requirements, while the bill proposes to change that to parents with children aged 6 and under. Parents with children between ages 6 and 12 who currently stay home with their kids would be forced to obtain (and pay for) babysitting services, or simply leave their children home alone. Our Washington, D.C. team will oppose both domestic provisions in its meetings with Congress in the next few weeks.