The Farm Bill Was Voted Down in the U.S. House, What Happens Now?

This afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 195-234 against the Farm Bill. The good news is that the 20 billion dollars of cuts to SNAP will not become law. Earlier today the House passed the Southerland amendment, which would have cut off the unemployed from SNAP, and also will not become a law as the result of the failed Farm Bill.

There are a few possibilities for what happens next. SNAP can continue without a Farm Bill through the appropriations process if a continuing resolution is passed in the fall. However, if no Farm Bill is passed, farming policy reverts to 1949, the last year that a permanent Farm Bill was passed, all the Farm Bills since then have been temporary. (Among other things this would substantially raise the price of milk). This is a fairly powerful incentive for the House to revisit the Farm Bill.

Technically, the House can go to conference with the Senate, without passing a full Farm Bill. Something similar happened with last year’s transportation bill. If that happens, something close to the Senate version would probably emerge as the House would have limited leverage in the conference committee. The results of the conference committee would still have to pass the House however, which would require a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans if something close to the Senate version were to be passed.

We will be sure to follow any developments closely on this blog as well as through our facebook and twitter, but for now it looks like SNAP has dodged a major attempt to slash benefits thanks to your work and the work of other hunger activists across the U.S. Here’s a quick look at who is helped by SNAP:

SNAP participants 2011

Although it is now unlikely to become law, I’ll share a few quick words on the Southerland amendment, as the general approach of linking SNAP to work remains popular. The problem with the amendment is that most unemployment is not voluntary. (In fact, by definition being counted among the unemployed means one is actively seeking work). Removing food assistance from parents or individuals who are unable to find work is poor public policy. Below is a chart showing the number of job seekers per opening for the last 12 years. With just over 3 people looking for work for every job available, the idea that we could increase employment by denying people money for food is simply incorrect. At best we would force people into the informal economy, and at worst we would increase food insecurity and cause lasting damage:

Job seekers per opening

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3 Responses

  1. […] Bill failed to pass the Senate. We’ve been following this closely, so I’ll refer you to our own post about […]

  2. Question for the author: Who are the 18% in other? My neo-con brother-in-law is asking.

    • They are quite literally the calculated as the difference between the number of people receiving food stamps and those I could account for with USDA data. The USDA also offers numbers for elderly living with others and disabled living with others. Those categories overlap with ‘adults living with children’ but are quite substantial. The original data can be found here, particularly tables 3.2 and 3.4. http://www.fns.usda.gov/ora/MENU/Published/snap/FILES/Participation/2011Characteristics.pdf

      The main reason for such a large ‘other’ category is simply that some recipients fit into more than one category and I needed to make sure that all the categories displayed on the chart would be mutually exclusive so I wasn’t double-counting anyone. Let me know if this isn’t clear enough. Thanks.

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