Draft Farm Bill Debated in House, SNAP Benefits Become Key Topic in Negotiations

By Brendan Scanland

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the House Agriculture Committee discussed and debated a $1.5 trillion draft farm bill. 

The House version of the bill is nearly 1,000 pages long and includes critical farm, nutrition, commodity and conservation policy over the next five years. 

Committee Chairman Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R- PA) is working to build support from Democrats for his version of the farm bill that he says includes input from stakeholders across the country. 

“A lot in Pennsylvania, obviously, but 85 listening sessions all together. 40 states, one territory, bringing the voices of American agriculture, which is America’s number one industry, to the table,” said Thompson, who calls his recently unveiled draft bill a product of the voices of American agriculture. 

The bill, estimated to cost $1.5 trillion over the next ten years, would promote rural farming and a new global market for farmers to sell their products. It would also crack down on the foreign purchase of U.S. farmland, while increasing eligibility for disaster assistance and funding for specialty crops. 

“This is a farm, food and national security bill,” said Thompson. 

During the markup on Thursday, Democrats in the House Agriculture Committee expressed concerns with potential cuts and freezes to SNAP payments, as well as changes to environmental and conservation programs.  

“This bill is a disaster,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D- MA). “It’s a disaster for America’s farmers. It’s a disaster for America’s families. It is a disaster for America’s environment. And it is a disaster for America’s workers,” he added. 

“This farm bill makes the largest financial cut to snap in 30 years,” said the committee’s ranking member Rep. David Scott (D- GA). 

The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is becoming a hot topic during the bill’s negotiations. Democrats say the bill changes the formula by which SNAP benefits are determined and that the change will result in a $30 billion cut to SNAP. 

“That’s all political speak and is being driven by the Democratic leadership in advance of a November election that I hear is coming up,” said Chairman Thompson. “But there are absolutely no cuts to SNAP.” 

Congress has until September 30 to pass a new farm bill or pass an extension. It’s unclear how politics during an election year will impact the timing of a final farm bill. However, leaders of both the House and Senate agriculture committees said they’re hoping to finalize it before the deadline. 

“We’re going to keep going until we get this done,” said Thompson.