Lucas: Farm bill conference should proceed if no House SNAP agreement by Aug. 2With the farm bill stalled, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., says that if the House cannot reach agreement on a bill to reauthorize the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamps, before leaving on Aug. 2 for five weeks, the farm bill conference between the House and the Senate should proceed.
By: Jerry Hagstrom, Agweek
WASHINGTON — With the farm bill stalled, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., says that if the House cannot reach agreement on a bill to reauthorize the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamps, before leaving on Aug. 2 for five weeks, the farm bill conference between the House and the Senate should proceed.
The Senate has passed a comprehensive farm bill that reauthorizes farm programs and the food stamp program, but the House has passed a farm program-only bill and has not reached agreement on a food stamp reauthorization that can garner 218 votes for passage.
“My personal goal is by some point next week, if it’s quite clear that consensus cannot be achieved, if it’s just not achievable, then I think we need to recognize that fact and move on conferencing the bill that the Senate’s passed and the House has passed and see what evolves from that,” Lucas said in a radio interview July 24 with the Oklahoma Farm Report.
“But right now, we’re still trying to achieve consensus. That consensus is at the very least elusive. It might even be impossible. But I’m still trying.”
Lucas also hinted that farm groups had not focused enough on final passage of the comprehensive farm bill that failed on the House floor. “A variety of groups were so consumed by particular niches of the commodity title, they forgot to work with me on getting the food stamp reforms through,” he said.
Lucas also defended the provision in the farm-program-only farm bill to repeal current permanent laws and make the commodity title of the 2013 bill permanent law.
“Having good policy in place gives us that real safety net moving forward,” Lucas said.
“The old logic was if you had a ’38 and a ’49 law on the books that were so horrendous, so impossible to implement, that will force action. I would tell you in the new environment, my friends on the left and my friends on the right don’t care. They just don’t care. The White House doesn’t understand rural America, doesn’t understand production agriculture.
“That creates a situation where, in future years, if it’s like now, and we get to this point we’re at now, somebody will simply include language in a CR (continuing resolution) to finish the appropriations year or some other legislation will just simply repeal it all and we’ll have nothing” he continued.
“I’m trying to craft good policy in a way that we can live with it, not just for the next five years, but the next 10 or 15 years. I want to use that as permanent law to protect us from a day when we can’t pass any farm legislation. At that point, it becomes a defensive battle, protecting what we have, not trying to scare people by using the bad old policy from Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman’s time to force something to happen. Because the group I’m now part of will just simply repeal a ’38 and ’49 law before it — when it takes effect and we’ll have nothing. That’s what I’m afraid of.”
Most farm groups defend permanent law and say that adopting a new permanent law would make it difficult to get Congress to reopen the farm bill in the future and make adjustments that would respond to changing times.
The nutrition working group established by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., met July 24, but reached no conclusions on a path forward on a nutrition bill, the Associated Press reported.
Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., told the AP the lawmakers in the July 24 meeting discussed whether work requirements should be voluntary or mandatory for states. She said the group floated other ideas such as drug testing recipients and reducing automatic food stamp eligibility for people who are enrolled in other benefit programs. Similar provisions were included in the comprehensive farm bill that was defeated on the House floor.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said July 24 that it would make sense to help food stamp beneficiaries get jobs and training but not to restrict their access to food. He also noted that 92 percent of beneficiaries are children, the elderly, disabled or people who are already working.