Agri-pulse noted, “House Republican leaders ensured that farm bill amendments that will be debated on the House floor won’t include ones attacking crop insurance which stood the best chance of getting approved.” As previously announced, Heritage Action opposes H.R. 2, and will key vote the following amendments: YES on Foxx #32, YES on McClintock #102, YES on Biggs #10, and YES on Banks #16.
Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Foxx Amendment to modernize and reform the sugar program (#32)
The House will vote on a bipartisan amendment offered by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) to H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018. The amendment would phase in market reforms to the federal sugar program, last reauthorized in the Agricultural Act of 2014 (farm bill).
While Congress generally moved away from restricting the supply of agricultural commodities, the federal sugar program remains an exception. Daren Bakst, senior research fellow in Agricultural Policy, Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation, examines agricultural markets and risk in his report Farms and Free Enterprise: A Blueprint for Agricultural Policy. Bakst explains that the sugar program “by providing both a price floor and numerous programs to decrease the supply of sugar . . . artificially inflates the price of sugar, and therefore the income of sugar producers.”
Cronyism in sugar policy has restricted trade and limited markets to the detriment of consumers. “Some of these programs include annual marketing allotments limiting the amount of sugar each domestic processor is allowed to sell and restrictions on imports,” Bakst explains. The result is increased costs on sugar-based products that are passed onto American consumers (for example, in the price of groceries). The cost to consumers has been estimated to be about $3.7 billion a year. Bakst notes that “U.S. sugar costs about double the world price.” Further, this is one policy that hurts the poor the most because lower-income households pay a greater share of their after-tax income on meeting food needs as compared to higher income households.
The Foxx amendment seeks to address the most egregious aspects of the sugar program by lifting restrictions on the domestic sale of sugar and allows more reasonable access into the U.S. sugar market. While Congress should eliminate the federal sugar program entirely, the Foxx proposal is a strong step in the right direction.
Heritage Action supports the Foxx Amendment #32 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.
Key Vote Alert: “YES” on McClintock Amendment to strengthen work requirements (#102)
The House will vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) to H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018. The McClintock proposal amends SNAP work requirements to repeal geographic area waivers and allow states to exempt only five percent of SNAP recipients. Additionally, the amendment sets the same work requirement for married parents as for single parents, reducing a long-standing marriage penalty.
There are currently 10 million work capable adults with little or no work receiving food stamps. Amendment #102 requires work of 7.1 million of these compared to 2.9 million under the manager’s amendment.
A key difference is the continuation of geographic waivers from work. Under the manager’s amendment to H.R. 2 recipients who reside in areas with unemployment rates that are 20 percent higher than the national average (but not less than seven percent) can be exempted from the work requirement. Up to 3.5 million work-capable recipients can be exempted from work through this provision. Amendment #102 eliminates these geographic exemptions.
The current food stamp program contains very strong marriage penalties. Low-income parents who marry can lose up to $5,000 per year in benefits. The manager’s amendment does nothing to soften these penalties. The work requirements in amendment #102 are marriage-friendly and will partially offset these penalties. Married parents with children would have a single work obligation that could be shared between them. This will encourage marriage. This is crucial because marriage greatly reduces poverty and dependence and is the strongest factor in promoting the upward mobility of children.
Robert Rector, Senior Research Fellow, Domestic Policy Studies, Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity at The Heritage Foundation, and Jamie Hall, an empirical data expert at Heritage explain these issues The recommendations are similar to those contained in H.R. 2996, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act of 2017. The bill, introduced by Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), has 100 co-sponsors and is included as a co-sponsor key vote on Heritage Action’s legislative scorecard.
Heritage Action supports the McClintock Amendment #102 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.
Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Biggs Amendment to repeal the bioenergy subsidy programs (#10)
The House will vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) to H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018. This amendment would repeal all Department of Agriculture biofuel and energy subsidy programs contained within Title IX of the 2014 Farm Bill. These programs include: Biobased Markets Program; Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program; Repowering Assistance Program; Biorefinery Program for Advanced Biofuels; Biodiesel Fuel Education Program; Rural Energy for America Program; Biomass Research and Development Initiative; Feedstock Flexibility Program for Bioenergy Producers; Biomass Crop Assistance Program; and the Community Wood Energy Program.
Previous estimates found that eliminating the biofuel energy subsidy programs in Title IX of the farm bill would save taxpayers $694 million in mandatory spending and $765 million in discretionary spending over five years. The bill would also help level the playing field for all energy sources to compete with one another in the free market without special treatment from the federal government.
Nick Loris, Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow in Energy and Environmental Policy at The Heritage Foundation, expands upon the problem of favoritism in his 2016 report Eliminate Favorable Treatment of Biofuels:
Over the years, federal policies have blocked access to opportunities, unnecessarily delayed projects, mandated expensive energy production, restricted choice, and given handouts to politically connected energy technologies. Politicians tout these programs as a way to usher in new technologies that will provide jobs and stimulate the economy. In reality, rather than providing an opportunity for all to compete, these policies allocate special benefits to the well-connected. Biofuel policy, through the farm bill and other pieces of legislation, has certainly been an example of such favoritism.
This amendment represents a necessary first step in the process of rolling back the federal government's role in the forced production and consumption of biofuels. This bill would empower individuals including energy producers, farmers, and consumers to produce, use, and buy the goods and services that are right for them to the benefit of the agricultural economy as a whole.
Heritage Action supports the Biggs Amendment #10 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.
Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Banks Amendment to repeal final “Waters of the United States” rule (#16)
The House will vote on an amendment offered by Reps. Jim Bank (R-Ind.), Gosar (R-Ariz.), et. to H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018. This amendment would repeal the final rule issued by the Engineers Corps and the Environmental Protection Agency entitled ‘‘Clean Water Rule: Definition of ‘Waters of the United States’’’. This rule is better known as the Obama Administration’s “WOTUS rule.”
As Daren Bakst, research fellow in Agricultural Policy, Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation, writes in his 2018 report Significant—and Necessary—Farm Subsidy Reforms for the Next Farm Bill:
There is arguably no regulatory issue hurting farmers and ranchers more than the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ overreach under the Clean Water Act, especially their definition of ‘waters of the United States.’
Under the Obama administration, the EPA interpreted the definition of “navigable waters’” in such an extreme way that even a man-made ditch could be regulated under the Clean Water Act. As Banks explained, “This rule has hurt our economy and encroached on the rights of farmers and agriculture producers who should be able to run their operations without fear of overbearing federal regulations.” Adoption of his amendment would repeal the harmful rule.
Heritage Action supports Banks Amendment #16 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.