Wednesday, March 14, 2018

House Ag Chair looking at Farm Bill Changes

Washington--House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway is holding off planned debate of the new farm bill to negotiate changes in the nutrition title that could gain more Democratic support.

House Democrats said they were unhappy with provisions in the draft bill that would increase the number of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients subject to work requirements and use the savings from reducing enrollment to expand state employment and training programs.

Representative Conaway of Texas, said he had a meeting on Tuesday with Democrat, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, and some other experts on welfare issues. Conaway had planned to release the draft bill this week ahead of a committee markup next week but he said that committee action before the two-week Easter recess was now "very doubtful."

“I don’t want to do is be in those negotiations, put something out, and then have to change it. I’d rather make the deal with Peterson to get him to a ‘yes. That’s when we’ll put it out,” Conaway told reporters.

Peterson says he has concerns saying that the bill could push 8 million people from SNAP rolls, but Conaway said: “we don’t think there’s anywhere near that many people” who would leave the program.

Insiders say that Conaway needs Democratic votes on the House floor to offset losses from Republicans who object to other provisions of the farm bill.

Senate Ag Committee leaders said that SNAP provisions are dead in that chamber, where Democratic support will be needed to get the 60 votes necessary to pass a farm bill.

“We’re looking to do some things that'll address the SNAP program and make it more directed to those who truly need it, but we won’t dramatically change the program,” said Pat Roberts, R-Kan.

The last farm bill authorized pilot projects to test ways of improving the E&T programs, but the projects are still changing. Some of the projects have suffered from staff turnover and loss of participation, according to USDA's latest report. As of Sept. 30, more than 34,000 people were enrolled in the 10 projects, with about half of pilot participants randomly assigned to a treatment group and half assigned to a control group.

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