Scoop: The GOP’s first move on SNAP
Presented by Mercy For Animals
With help from Meredith Lee Hill and Marcia Brown
— The nutrition fight is here. Rep.
— MA caught up with Rep.
— Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack will testify before the Senate Ag Committee this week, his first time in front of the 118th Congress.
HAPPY MONDAY, March 13. Welcome to Morning Ag. I’m your host, Garrett Downs. Send tips to [email protected] and @_garrettdowns, and follow us @Morning_Ag.
Want to receive this newsletter every weekday? Subscribe to POLITICO Pro. You’ll also receive daily policy news and other intelligence you need to act on the day’s biggest stories.
Driving the Day
GOP MOVES ON SNAP: Johnson’s bill would expand the age bracket of able-bodied adults without dependents and limit states’ ability to request time-limit waivers.
It’s Republicans’ first legislative foray into the thorny fight to come over the future of SNAP in the 2023 farm bill. It also comes as SNAP spending is being dragged into the impending fight over raising the debt ceiling. Your host and Meredith have the scoop on what that means.
The nitty gritty: The bill would expand the ABAWD age bracket from 18 to 49 to 18 to 65. It would also strip states of the ability to lobby the Agriculture Department for a waiver if they do not have a sufficient number of jobs to provide employment for the individuals, which Johnson says is a loophole being abused. It would leave in place waivers based on areas with 10 percent unemployment rates.
Johnson, who grew up on SNAP, told MA “closing the loopholes in the work requirement will help the deficit,” but his “primary motivation is helping families out of poverty.”
“We know that work is the only path out of poverty,” he added.
Who’s on it?: Johnson has 14 GOP cosponsors on the bill including Ag Committee Reps. Mary Miller (Ill.), Randy Feenstra (Iowa) and Mark Alford (Mo.). Notably absent from the list is House Ag Chair G.T. Thompson (R-Pa.).
Remember: Able-bodied adults without dependents, ABAWDs as they are known, have a stricter set of work requirements. They are also subject to the time limit — if an ABAWD doesn’t work 80 hours a month for three months within a three year period, they will lose their benefits.
Time limits have been suspended during the pandemic, but are set to return in May.
Not the only game in town: Democrats are still trying to formulate a strategy on SNAP.
The White House got the ball rolling in its budget proposal, where it urged Congress to reduce barriers to entry for SNAP, echoing the administration’s calls from the White House conference last fall.
“Rather than reducing obstacles to employment, research demonstrates that time limits on SNAP eligibility amplify existing inequities in food and economic security,” the White House said in its budget brief.
Then, Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Alma Adams (N.C.) reintroduced a bill after Biden’s budget release to scrap the time limit altogether, the Improving Access to Nutrition Act.
FARM BILL BATTLES
FARM BILL OUTLOOK: Ahead of a busy farm bill season, MA sat down with Rep. Andrea Salinas for a look at some of her top priorities. She’s from a moderate, rural district and was just named to the DCCC’s top frontline Democrats this cycle.
Here’s part of our conversation with the top Democrat on the forestry subcommittee.
Specialty crops and forestry: “Historically, the farm bill has really focused on big ag. And so the little guy, which I consider my family farms, and we have hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland across the 6th Congressional District, but we get left out of that equation.”
“All my specialty crop growers felt like they actually haven’t been able to take advantage of some of the crop insurance programs, the disaster relief programs, and even some of the conservation programs. I know my nursery industry really does feel like they can be part of the solution around climate.”
“So those are kind of two of my main goals: trying to figure out how my horticulture industry takes advantage of some of our climate policies as well as getting to some of the safety net programs and how they can be useful because we are seeing things like heat domes, ice storms and obviously wildfires.”
Nutrition programs: “I also have a disproportionately high percentage of eligible SNAP recipients in my district as well. And I’m going to continue to work with anybody who wants to make sure that we can grow the food and we can also make sure that we have people in our district who can afford to put food on their table. So I do think the [Agriculture] Committee is very different than these extreme Republicans who are actually trying to reduce SNAP benefits.”
Farm bill timing: “The chairman indicated at our organizing meeting that he wanted to have a draft by July, which I think a lot of us thought was really ambitious. Which is great, to set a tight deadline and then maybe we’ll get something by September.”
VILSACK IN THE HOT SEAT: Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack will testify before the Senate Ag Committee on Thursday, his first time answering to the 118th Congress that will write the 2023 farm bill.
While Vilsack enjoys a strong reputation in the agriculture community, you can expect Senate Republicans to raise a bevy of thorny questions about his second go-around as the country’s top agriculture official.
Here’s what to expect:
Climate: Vilsack has made climate change a key piece of his agenda in the Biden administration. The Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program is a frequent Vilsack talking point, but the more than $3 billion initiative is also a boogeyman for Republicans.
Expect GOP criticism of Vilsack’s use of the Commodity Credit Corporation to finance the program. Although administrations of both parties have used the CCC for various spending initiatives, including a Trump administration bailout of farmers hurt by the former president’s trade war with China, Republicans have criticized using it for climate reasons.
Nutrition: Vilsack will likely have to fend off GOP criticism on his agency’s reevaluation of the Thrifty Food Plan.
A Government Accountability Office review of the TFP reevaluation found the process lacked accountability and is sure to provide GOP senators with ample questions for Vilsack.
You’ll recall Ag Committee ranking member Sen. John Boozman’s (R-Ark.) sharp criticism of the TFP overhaul at a separate hearing last month.
REPAIR CORNER: An agricultural right-to-repair bill passed out of committee in the Colorado Senate. The bill, which would give farmers greater ability to perform repairs on their equipment, has already passed the state House. It’s unclear when the full Senate may vote, but the bill’s sponsor, Colorado Rep. Brianna Titone, previously told MA that she hopes the law will force manufacturers to make national changes.
Asked if Colorado Gov. Jared Polis would sign the bill, a spokesperson said the governor’s “final decision will be based on the final language that comes to his desk.”
— A merger between grocery giants Kroger and Albertsons could change the definition of what a grocery store is, The Wall Street Journal reports.
— Alaska has a monthslong backlog of delays in administering SNAP benefits prompting USDA to issue a stern warning about the state’s practices, the Anchorage Daily News reports.
— A House resolution to overturn the Biden administration’s Waters of the United States rule passed the house last week. Our Annie Snider reports the Senate is expected to take up its resolution of disapproval this week where it only needs a simple majority to pass. But Biden has already vowed to veto it.
THAT’S ALL FOR MA. Drop us a line: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected].
( Information from politico.com was used in this report. Also if you have any problem of this article or if you need to remove this articles, please email here and we will delete this immediately. [email protected] )