By a 217-210 vote on Thursday afternoon, September 19, the US House of Representatives voted to cut SNAP spending by $3.9 billion per year. There were zero Democrats who voted for passage and 15 Republicans opposed their leadership to vote no. The debate on the House floor was quite partisan and included the usual shots at other farm programs such as crop insurance by our opponents.
This development sets the stage for House leadership to name members to a conference committee and hopefully iron out numerous Farm Bill differences with the US Senate version. The SNAP differences are the most controversial since the Senate spending cuts for SNAP are set at about 10% of the House measure.
The House conferees will almost certainly include Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R. Oklahoma) and ranking Democrat Collin Peterson (D. Minnesota). This will set up a thoughtful discussion and debate in conference on the “farm bill” part of the legislation, but how the SNAP title gets resolved is the real question. The “behind closed doors” rhetoric coming out of the Senate Ag Committee Chambers indicates that Senate conference members are unlikely to support more than $1 billion a year in SNAP cuts. Remember the White House was talking “veto” on the original House version which included $2 billion a year in SNAP cuts.
This would mean that the ultimate Farm Bill “conference report” is likely to be acceptable to both the full US Senate and the White House. In my opinion, passing anything of a bi-partisan nature through the currently dysfunctional US House is questionable. Again in my opinion, it is less than a 50/50 chance that the House Republican leader Cantor (R. Virginia) would even allow a vote, if he and his Republican caucus are opposed to the final product.
So, we have inched closer to a resolution, but we are still a long way from the final product reaching the President’s desk. We will attempt to stay on top of the work of the conferees and will make sure we update all when the House finalizes their conference members.
Key differences for the crop insurance program to be ironed out include but are not limited to:
1. Means test affecting premium subsidy
2. Conservation – compliance rules also affecting premium subsidy
3. Shallow loss program (SCO)
Questions or comments are welcome!