The U.S. Senate is expected to vote this week on the Farm Bill, though Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says the Senate version will not include a controversial element.
Republicans in the House passed a Farm Bill that includes a work requirement for food stamp recipients, something Democrats are rallying against. “I support work requirements for people that can work,” Grassley says. “That would leave out disabled, families with children, elderly people, but if you’re an able-bodied person, I support work requirements.”
Under the House plan, recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits would be required to work or do job-training for at least 20 hours a week, unless they are pregnant or caring for a young child or for a person with significant health issues. Grassley says those requirements have been a big sticking point between the parties.
“They are not in the Senate bill,” Grassley says, “and they won’t be in the final bill that goes to the president of the United States because we have to get a bipartisan bill in the Senate and we can’t get a bipartisan bill with work requirements in it.” The House needs to “back down,” according to Grassley, or the Farm Bill may need to be extended into 2019.
One amendment Grassley is adding to the Farm Bill aims to close the loophole which he says enables Wall Street bankers to get federal farm dollars, even if they’ve never had dirt under their fingernails. Grassley says, “Allowing these types of nonfarmers to milk the farm safety net for millions of dollars in subsidies each year is ridiculous.” The Senate will be working on Farm Bill amendments today, Wednesday and Thursday and Grassley predicts it’ll go to a vote either Thursday evening or Friday.
“The leader of the Senate wants to get it done before we go home for 4th of July and I do, too, want to get it through,” Grassley says. “The extent to which we can give farmers certainty five years ahead of time is really the best farm policy.”
The current five-year Farm Bill, which expires this fall, is worth some $489 billion , though nutrition programs account for about 80% of that total.