Breaking down the Farm Bill: Nutrition

A breakdown of the SNAP program and a look ahead to the 2018 Farm Bill

Land O

As a farmer-owned cooperative, Land O’Lakes, Inc. is keeping a close eye on Capitol Hill as discussions heat up over the Farm Bill. We’ve begun educating new members of Congress on the importance of farm programs. And for the past few months, we’ve brought you a summary of the titles—commodities and insurance, and conservation—that have the most impact on our business, what we’re doing to influence and most importantly, what you can do to advocate.

Part one of the series gave the history of the Farm Bill and summarized the Commodity title (Title 1) and the Crop Insurance title (Title 11). Part two of the series focused on the Conservation title (Title 2). Here, we highlight the Nutrition title (Title 4).

Title IV: Nutrition today

Nutrition programs have been combined with farm commodity programs in Farm Bill since the 1970s to highlight the farm to fork nature of the food supply chain and to build a coalition among Congressional leaders, producers and hunger groups with more support than either programs would have alone.

The 2014 Farm Bill's Nutrition title accounted for 80 percent of the law's forecasted spending. Most the of this title’s funding and policies are under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides food assistance to low-income families at retailers across the U.S.

In the months leading up to the 2014 Farm Bill, debates on spending, work requirements, and whether the nutrition programs should be voted on separately from agricultural programs nearly delayed the timely passing of the bill. Ultimately, the 2014 Farm Bill was passed with reduced eligibility requirements of some federal nutrition programs, while establishing and expanding programs that provide healthy food options to low-income children, seniors and families.

To reduce partisan tensions over this issue in future Farm Bill debates, Congress established a national commission on hunger comprised of members appointed by leaders in the House and the Senate to make sure the work would be bipartisan. The commission released a report in Jan. 2016 that emphasized employment and training programs and requirements, and proposed to exclude a narrowly defined class of sugar-sweetened beverages from SNAP eligibility. At the same time, the report describes SNAP’s overall success in reducing the rates of household food insecurity and hunger in the United States.

Looking ahead to 2018

The 2018 bill is expected to be drafted later this fall or early 2018. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) has already hosted nearly two dozen oversight hearings exploring how Farm Bill nutrition programs work in advance of this discussion.

In current budget discussions, House conservatives are calling for cuts in food stamps, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, by tightening work requirements on food stamp recipients. However, this seems unlikely to pass in the Senate due to the pushback it has received.

House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway has said his committee will tighten SNAP work requirements, but he also said he intends to use the savings to fund a program to provide transitional incentives to low-income people who would lose their food stamps if they were to take a job or pay raise. Another issue that has been proposed would be to limit the food choices eligible in the SNAP program.

Land O’Lakes does not take a position on nutrition, but it is an important to watch because these provisions could decide whether the entire Farm Bill passes in a timely manner. In the past, it has taken a unique coalition of interests to pass the Farm Bill. With fewer than 40 majority rural House seats and 218 votes required to pass a bill in the House of Representatives, Congressional leaders have pledged to get the bill done on time, with whatever coalition makes that possible.

Stay tuned on Farm Bill developments

Our Government Relations team is educating policymakers on our stance on the issues, and we will bring you the latest developments as Farm Bill discussions continue. You can get involved, too.

Call, email or meet with your member of Congress to let them know why the Farm Bill matters to you. Even members of Congress from rural areas need to hear what is and isn’t working. Are you interested in inviting them to your farm or co-op? Email, and they will help you coordinate.

Interested in any other topics related to the Farm Bill? Email to let us know and to learn more.