Farm bill! Farm bill! The House Agriculture Committee posted its first public draft of the 2018 Farm Bill yesterday. Corporate welfare—farm subsidies—stay the same, but people welfare—food stamps—are in Republican sights for stricter requirements:
The legislation calls for able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 59 to work or be enrolled in a job-training program for at least 20 hours a week beginning in fiscal year 2021. That minimum number of hours would jump to 25 hours per week starting in fiscal year 2026.
Those who violate the work requirements could become ineligible for SNAP benefits for a 12-month period. Subsequent violations could result in three years of lost benefits, “unless an individual obtains employment sufficient to meet the hourly requirement or is no longer subject to the work requirements at an earlier time,” and other conditions, according to language in the summary of the bill [Brakkton Booker, “Republican Farm Bill Calls on Many SNAP Recipients to Work or Go to School,” NPR: Food for Thought, 2018.04.12].
Not making this draft Farm Bill is mandatory drug testing for SNAP recipients, which even House Republicans admit isn’t worth the effort:
Everyone agrees that we need to weed out the bad actors. But drug testing comes at significant cost to the taxpayer. Additionally, States are not permitted to create additional conditions for eligibility.
…While States are not permitted to create additional conditions for eligibility, drug testing has been allowed and tested in multiple states. For example, before the court imposed an injunction stopping drug testing in Florida, just 2.6% (108) of over 4,000 applicants tested positive for illegal substance use in a period of six months. Florida paid $118,140 in testing, as well as $307,833 in legal fees for the appeals and combined settlements. In a six month period, Florida paid just shy of $1 million for 108 drug tests, significantly more than the total cost of benefits for those individuals [House Agriculture Committee, “Farm Bill: Question & Answer,” downloaded 2018.04.13].
It’s nice to know Republicans have recognized what this blog has documented on multiple occasions: testing welfare recipients for drugs is a waste of money (Utah, Missouri, and Tennessee got the same wasteeful results as Florida), not to mention unconstitutional, unscientific, and poorly targeted.
Donald Trump floated his own plan last week for new farm subsidies through the Commodity Credit Corporation to cushion farmers from the blow of his tariff war. But yesterday Senator John Thune and other ag-state Republicans waved him away from that idea:
The White House had been looking at using a Depression-era program known as the Commodity Credit Corp. that could be used to extend subsidies to farmers, but Republican lawmakers pushed back hard on that idea during Thursday’s meeting.
“Farmers don’t want a handout. They want access to markets,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) said. “The president was surprised by that. He’s like, ‘really?’ He said, ‘Oh, really? Okay, so we won’t do that’” [Erica Werner, Damian Paletta, and Seung Min Kim, “Trump Weighs Rejoining Trans-Pacific Partnership amid Trade Dispute with China,” Washington Post, 2018.04.12].
…as if $20 billion a year in subsidies, untouched by this new Farm Bill, isn’t a handout.
One teeny-tiny change: Section 10002 increases the administrative basic fee that Kristi Noem’s husband collects when he sells crop insurance from $300 to $500. I don’t know if that fee goes in the agent’s pocket or Uncle Sam’s pocket, but that 67% increase certainly comes out of the farmer’s pocket.