The Trump administration has released an outline for agricultural legislation that focuses on food stamps, regulatory cuts and limiting subsidies to farmers.
The current farm bill in previous years has had a cost over $100 billion, which authorizes programs including funding to prevent forest fires, payments to corn and soybean growers and maintains nutrition and crop-agricultural programs, all overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The farm bill is scheduled to expire Sept. 30, after which programs may see suspensions and subsidies will begin to end.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released the outline last Wednesday with a call to push food stamp recipients back to work, an action seen as a priority for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and for the GOP. The outline considers “work as the pathway to self-sufficiency, well-being and economic mobility for individuals and families” that are food stamp recipients.
The Trump administration, however, has not specified the changes it sought to make to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), otherwise known as the food stamps program, or if they would alter the funding for the program to push their agenda as noted in the recent outline.
The GOP and the Trump administration’s position regarding changes to SNAP are being closely watched as partisan disputes over the issue nearly resulted in the failure of the current farm bill, passed in 2014. Nutrition programs, like SNAP, are often under criticism and are at the center of debate between the parties and legislators, as the programs account for most of the bill’s cost.
Harwood Schaffer, an agricultural economist at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, said, “The only ugly issue on the scene is the food fight between the nutrition people and the crop-agriculture people. If we don’t have to steal from nutrition to make the commodity programs work, we may be able to avoid any major problems.”
However, Republicans within Congress have expressed that they do not intend to make dramatic changes to the SNAP program, which was backed up by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. The GOP and the president are attempting to make policy changes that bring more SNAP recipients to work.
Schaffer said the passage of the $1.5 trillion tax cut will make passage of a new farm bill difficult due to the lack of federal funds. Farmers are likely to seek larger subsidies, arguing that greater funding is available because food stamp spending has declined. Due to an improving economy, SNAP spending dropped 15 percent to $68 billion in 2017.
Other goals the administration is trying to push through include discouraging subsidies for farmers that the administration believes makes farmers too dependent on the government. The USDA also called for cuts to regulations, encouraging younger farmers, and improved monitoring of how other countries might interfere with U.S. agriculture exports.
The outline was described as a “statement of principles” and meant to guide legislation in Congress with the Trump administration’s priorities. Secretary Perdue stated the White House is prepared to become more involved with legislative priorities should lawmakers stray too far from the administration’s priorities.
“These principles will be used as a roadmap — they are our way of letting Congress know what we’ve heard from the hard-working men and women of American agriculture,” Secretary Perdue said in a statement.
Presidential administrations have typically avoided a dominant role in agriculture legislation. Former President George W. Bush attempted to push his agenda in 2002, which failed to gain traction, and vetoed a bill in 2008, which was overridden. The Obama administration played only a minor role in the development of the 2014 farm bill, with the USDA taking an advisory role.
President Trump earlier stated, in talks with the American Farm Bureau Federation, that he’d work with Congress “to pass the farm bill on time so that it delivers for all of you.”