National WIC Association

Washington Update: House Republicans Unveil Partisan Farm Bill

April 12, 2018

This afternoon, Congressman Mike Conaway (R-TX), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, introduced the first version of the House farm bill. The farm bill is generally passed every five years to reauthorize both farm subsidies and certain nutrition programs, including SNAP. WIC is not included in the farm bill, as it is separately authorized through Child Nutrition Reauthorization (last attempted in 2016). However, the farm bill has implications for WIC participants, as we know that many WIC families also depend on SNAP to help feed their families.

This farm bill includes several harmful reforms that restrict access to SNAP by imposing harsher work requirements, limiting eligibility, and redirecting funding from food assistance to job training programs:

  • Dilutes food dollars to benefit job training programs – Families will be left with fewer resources to put food on the table as the bill moves more SNAP funding over to workforce employment and training (E&T) programs. SNAP E&T programs do not necessarily lead to increased employment, and they certainly do not alleviate hunger. By diverting focus away from feeding those in need, these job training programs fail to address the root issue: that there are not enough jobs in this country that pay a living wage.
  • Imposes stricter work requirements – USDA already grants several states waivers from the existing work requirements, but the farm bill would raise the age requirement to 59 and put harsher penalties on individuals who are unable to comply – including a three-year ban on SNAP participation.
  • Narrows categorical eligibility – Similar to adjunctive eligibility in WIC, categorical eligibility between SNAP and programs like TANF and SSI helps streamline application and enrollment processes. The bill would significantly undermine the provision, thus increasing administrative burden and denying people access to SNAP. Categorical eligibility particularly benefits children, older Americans, and individuals with disabilities.
  • Consolidates nutrition education programs – The farm bill would combine SNAP-Ed and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), undermining the targeted nutrition education priorities of the two different programs.
  • Restricts EBT reissuance – The farm bill would jeopardize SNAP access for any participant who requests a replacement EBT card within a 12-month period.

NWA actively opposes this damaging legislative proposal, as it will result in SNAP having fewer resources to reach fewer people and thus becoming less effective in combatting and alleviating hunger. It is unclear whether this legislation has the votes to advance in the House, as Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) expressed doubts that there is sufficient Republican support and clarified that Democrats will oppose the bill given the SNAP provisions.

Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, recently affirmed that the Senate farm bill will be more bipartisan. NWA will continue to monitor developments and inform members about SNAP legislation that could impact the population that WIC serves.