This week, Congress will vote on the final Farm Bill conference report to accompany H.R. 2, the Agriculture Improvement Act. Conservatives should oppose the Farm Bill conference report because it does not advance conservative principles and misses out on key opportunities to reduce farm subsidies and to move Americans from welfare to work. Specifically, the conference report does not strengthen work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents and does not include any meaningful or even minor subsidy reforms, such as Senator Grassley’s “actively engaged” amendment or the House-passed provision to repeal Obama’s EPA WOTUS rule.
Well designed work requirements for food stamp recipients are essential to reduce poverty, government dependence and to improve our labor force. In regards to SNAP reforms proposed in the House, Senior Research Fellow Robert Rector and Research Assistant Vijay Menon of the Heritage Foundation wrote:
“Congress should require able-bodied food stamp recipients without dependents to take a job, prepare for work, perform community service, or at least search for employment in exchange for taxpayer-funded assistance. This reform, which has broad public support and has proven successful at the state level, would promote self-support among recipients and generate significant savings.”
In addition, the majority of Americans support work requirements for food stamp recipients. Ninety-two percent of Americans agree that able-bodied adults who receive cash, food, housing, and medical assistance should be required to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving those government benefits. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture has prepared a regulation to effectively increase work requirements, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was noncommittal to reporters regarding the regulation. Strong work requirements should have been included in this conference report from the beginning.
Lastly, the Farm Bill conference report fails to include Senator Grassley’s “actively engaged” amendment which would have tightened eligibility requirements for farm subsidies by only allowing one farm manager to qualify. This would have saved taxpayer dollars. Instead, the compromise bill expands a loophole that allows subsidies to go to family members of farm owners, including first cousins, nieces and nephews, without any proof that they have actually set foot on the farm. These handout schemes are unfair to American taxpayers, consumers, and farmers and should not be included in a conservative Farm Bill.
For these reasons, the Farm Bill conference report does not advance important conservative goals and should be opposed. Even Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) commented that people will not like the bill when they read it. According to Peterson, “There’s concern on some members’ part that when people find out what’s in the bill it will start unraveling.”
To that end, if Congress can’t pass a conservative Farm Bill, it should pass a clean one year extension of existing law and fight again next year.
Heritage Foundation: A Nightmare Farm Bill for Conservatives
Heritage Foundation: SNAP Reform Act Offers Sound Basis for Welfare Policy
Heritage Foundation: If Congress Can’t Pass a Conservative Farm Bill, It Should Extend Existing Law
Heritage Foundation: A Conservative Farm Bill Must Include Major Subsidy and Regulatory Reforms
Heritage Foundation: What You Should Know About Who Receives Farm Subsidies
Heritage Foundation: Significant—and Necessary—Farm Subsidy Reforms for the Next Farm Bill
Heritage Foundation: Five Steps Congress Can Take to Encourage Work in the Food Stamps Program
Heritage Foundation: Food Stamp Reform Bill Requires Work for Only 20 Percent of Work-Capable Adults
Heritage Foundation: Dispelling Claims by Farm Subsidy Proponents
Heritage Action: Amendments to Food Stamp and Farm Bill (H.R. 2)