Lucas: Farm bill conference should proceed if no House SNAP agreement by Aug. 2
WASHINGTON -- If the House cannot reach agreement on a bill to reauthorize the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamps, before leaving Friday for five weeks, the farm bill conference between the House and the Senate should proceed, says House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla.
The Senate passed a comprehensive farm bill that reauthorizes farm programs and the food stamp program, but the House passed a farm program-only bill and has not agreed on a food stamp reauthorization.
Consensus on the food stamp program is "very elusive" in the House, Lucas said in a radio interview last week with the Oklahoma Farm Report. "It might even be impossible. But I'm still trying,"
He hinted that farm groups had not focused enough on final passage of the comprehensive farm bill that failed on the House floor.
"A variety of groups were so consumed by particular niches of the commodity title, they forgot to work with me on getting the food stamp reforms through," he said.
Lucas defended a provision in the farm-program-only bill to repeal current permanent laws and make the commodity title of the 2013 bill permanent law.
"Having good policy in place gives us that real safety net moving forward," Lucas said.
"The old logic was if you had a '38 and a '49 law on the books that were so horrendous, so impossible to implement, that will force action. I would tell you in the new environment, my friends on the left and my friends on the right don't care. They just don't care. The White House doesn't understand rural America, doesn't understand production agriculture."
Lucas said he's trying to craft a policy that everyone can live with for 10 to 15 years.
"I want to use that as permanent law to protect us from a day when we can't pass any farm legislation," he said. "At that point, it becomes a defensive battle, protecting what we have, not trying to scare people by using the bad old policy from Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman's time to force something to happen."
The nutrition working group established by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., met July 24, but reached no conclusions on a path forward on a nutrition bill, the Associated Press reported.
Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., told the AP the lawmakers in the July 24 meeting discussed whether work requirements should be voluntary or mandatory for states.
She said the group floated other ideas such as drug testing recipients and reducing automatic food stamp eligibility for people who are enrolled in other benefit programs. Similar provisions were included in the comprehensive farm bill that was defeated on the House floor.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said July 24 that it would make sense to help food stamp beneficiaries get jobs and training but not to restrict their access to food.
He also noted that 92 percent of beneficiaries are children, the elderly, disabled or people who are already working.