Update on the Farm Bill’s Progress

Ready for a Valentine’s Day farm bill? Feb. 14 is a date that’s being eyed for debating a new farm bill in the House Agriculture Committee, says Rep. Collin Peterson, the panel’s top Democrat.

House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway told Agri-Pulse the schedule is still “fuzzy” but didn’t deny that Feb. 14 is under consideration. Conaway is still getting cost estimates on draft provisions of the bill.

Why it matters: Passing a farm bill this year is a huge challenge with the mid-term elections looming this fall. Conaway has a narrow window of opportunity in February and in March if he wants to move a bill before the two-week Easter recess that starts in late March.

SNAP categorical eligibility eyed for savings

Conaway confirmed to Agri-Pulse that he is looking at tightening what is known as “categorical eligibility” in the food stamp program. If that idea sounds familiar, it’s because Republicans tried the same thing in the last farm bill.

But Conaway has something very different in mind this time: He aims to keep the money saved from changing eligibility rules within the nutrition title, which could appeal to Democrats. “If I plowed that (savings) back into the system I may be able to show that the policy is better, and that the policy wasn’t driven to try to harvest money for somewhere else.”

The last time around, Republicans tried to use the savings for deficit reduction. Conaway declined to specify what improvements to the program the money could fund.

Categorical eligibility essentially allows low-income people in participating states to automatically qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Income limits for eligibility vary by state. In some states, people can quality for SNAP if their income is as much as 200 percent of the poverty line.

Keep in mind: Peterson argues that categorical eligibility has gotten out of hand, but he hasn’t signed off on what Conaway has proposed.

Peterson, in fact, expressed frustration yesterday that he hadn’t seen any proposed bill language. “Whatever we do there has to be a solid policy reason for doing it,” he said.

Source: AgriMarketing

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