WASHINGTON — The Republican-led House has narrowly passed a sweeping farm bill that would toughen work requirements for food stamp recipients.
The bill passed by a vote of 213-211, with all three of Central Illinois' Republican lawmakers in favor. Democrats unanimously opposed the measure, saying it would toss too many people off government food assistance.
Twenty Republicans also voted "no," giving GOP leaders a brief scare in what was their second attempt in the past two months to pass a farm bill.
The measure renews the safety net for farmers at a time when President Donald Trump's tough talk on tariffs threatens to close off foreign markets for many of their products.
"This farm bill continues to protect crop insurance for our farmers, strengthens Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) options to help provide more certainty in the farm economy, and protects our farmers against illegal trade practices by foreign countries,” U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood of Dunlap said in a prepared statement.
The House bill sets up a certain clash with the Senate, which is looking to make mostly modest adjustments to existing agriculture programs in its bill without picking a fight over Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps.
“Passing this bill not only shows support for agriculture, but it shows the American people that we are not satisfied with the status quo, which is a welfare system that perpetuates poverty,” said U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, a Taylorville Republican, in a statement. “Despite our growing economy, we still have 9 million more people on SNAP today than we did at the height of the recession when jobs were scarce and unemployment reached double-digits."
The bill requires able-bodied adults aged 18-59 to work or participate in job training for 20 hours a week in order to receive food stamp benefits that average about $450 a month for a family of four. Government auditors estimate that in 10 years, the SNAP caseload would shrink by about 1.2 million people in an average month if the bill becomes law.
“The bill also includes reasonable, but meaningful, work requirements with federal investments to help unemployed or underemployed Americans into jobs that will lead to independence and self-sufficiency," said U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Channahon in a prepared statement.
The legislation has traditionally been bipartisan, blending support from urban Democrats supporting nutrition programs with farm-state lawmakers supporting crop insurance, farm credit, and land conservation. The Senate earlier this month unveiled a budget-neutral and bipartisan bill.
Although the House bill broke from that bipartisan convention, its position on work requirements for SNAP recipients is consistent with the Trump administration's priorities.