On Friday, after months of bipartisan work, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry released its farm bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. Among other provisions, the bill, sponsored by Committee Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow protects and strengthens the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), our country’s most effective anti-hunger and poverty alleviating program.
SNAP is a particularly vital program for more than 40 million Americans, including 10 million low-income Latinos struggling to put food on the table. Two-thirds of SNAP recipients are children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Not only does SNAP play a key role when it comes to hunger, the program also serves as an important poverty alleviating tool, lifting at least 1.2 million Latinos out of poverty in 2015.
The Farm Bill is legislation that reauthorizes various commodity, trade, rural development, agricultural research, and food and nutrition programs every five years. The Senate bill’s current nutrition provisions call for:
- Allowing more states to participate in and provide additional funding for SNAP’s ongoing Employment and Training (E&T) pilot programs, and in doing so, help provide more evidence on what works best in helping SNAP participants join the workforce with valuable skills.
- Strengthening the relationship between employers (e.g. private sector, nonprofit organizations) and states’ E&T programs.
- Modernizing and improving systems and technology.
- Investing in nutrition programs and improving retailers’ incentive programs to offer healthy foods.
- Making it easier for seniors and people with disabilities to apply and recertify without the need for an office visit.
It’s important to note that the Senate bill stands in stark contrast to that of the House. The House bill, H.R. 2, drafted on the heels of a massive tax cut for large corporations and the richest Americans, would result in increased hunger and hardship by cutting nearly $20 billion in SNAP funding; redirecting funds for nutrition assistance to a woefully underfunded and untested employment and training program; and erecting further barriers to participation by including additional work requirements in order for participants to receive benefits.
LEGISLATIVE OUTLOOK: WHAT’S NEXT?
UPDATED 6/13/2018 at 9:00 PM ET.
Today, the Senate Committee on Agriculture held a mark-up to discuss the bill and consider potential amendments, passing the bipartisan bill with a 20-1 vote. While the path forward is still unclear, Senate leadership aims to bring the bill for a full Senate vote before the July 4 holiday.
A Congressional Budget Office score for the Senate bill is not yet available, but the Senate anticipates that there will be no major changes to program spending. Meanwhile, House Republican leadership has given a June 22 deadline to take a second vote on their bill. The deadline to pass a farm reauthorization bill is September 30, when the current law is set to expire.
UnidosUS will continue to work with Congress and our allies to lift up the needs and priorities of the Latino community and ensure a Farm Bill that protects and strengthens critical food assistance programs like SNAP.