Congress is debating a comprehensive farm bill this summer, and the competing versions offered by the House and Senate could not be more different. The Senate bill, which faces a vote on the floor this week, would protect and enhance federal agriculture and nutrition programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that helps ensure that low-income families have enough food to eat each month. The House bill, which was approved earlier this month, would cut funding for food assistance by nearly $19 billion and invest that money in risky new work programs. The bill would make it harder for more than 2 million people to put food on the table by reducing or eliminating their SNAP benefits.
The farm bill is wide-ranging legislation that sets the rules and authorizes critical nutrition and agriculture programs every five years. One of the key programs in the bill is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which ensures 40 million people nationwide and nearly 900,000 Louisianans can buy groceries each month. There is a long history of bipartisan commitment to protecting and strengthening SNAP, which has long been one of the nation’s most effective anti-hunger and poverty reduction programs. It delivers nutrition assistance primarily to children, veterans, people with disabilities and seniors. In 2015, SNAP lifted more than 8 million people above the poverty line — including nearly 4 million children.
The Senate proposal would protect and strengthen SNAP while making meaningful investments in workforce development programs for SNAP recipients. The bill builds on SNAP’s ability to support work by allowing more states to participate in SNAP employment and training pilot programs and dedicating more funding to the pilots. These changes will help to ensure that future investments in SNAP employment and training goes to programs that have a proven track record of success.
The Senate Agriculture Committee advanced its version of the bill by a bipartisan vote of 20 to 1.
The Senate bill does not take away food assistance from eligible households, but instead saves money through a new program integrity provision that would clamp down on misuse. It also would steer money to states that want to try innovative ways to connect food recipients with jobs and training, and makes it easier for states to check if applicants are enrolled for benefits in more than one state.
While the Senate bill represents a reasonable bipartisan compromise that protects the most vulnerable citizens who depend on food assistance, senators may propose substantial changes to SNAP as amendments on the Senate floor. Louisiana Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy should support the current version of the farm bill and reject any amendments that include harmful changes to SNAP. Reducing hunger, strengthening rural communities and supporting our economy, as the current Senate bill does, is the best way forward for Louisiana.