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House Ag Chair Sees Enough Money for Farm Bill, Even With Cuts

Chairman Michael Conaway says the House Agriculture Committee will have enough money “to craft a farm bill that works for all of our various stakeholders” despite a prospective cut in funding for farm and nutrition programs, according to Huffington Post. Conaway agreed to the cut as part of discussions among House Republicans, who want to increase spending on the military and reduce spending on social programs to help make room for a tax cut.

Neither Conaway, who advocates “meaningful reforms” for food stamps, nor Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black, who was seeking $150 billion or more in savings from social welfare programs, offered details of their agreement on farm bill funding. There were rumors but no immediate confirmation of an $8 billion cut over 10 years, said Politico. Conaway has spoken in favor of restricting access to nutrition benefits and more stringent work requirements but has not proposed specific changes.

The Huffington Post quoted Conaway as saying in regard to the agreement with Black, “I am very confident that the agreement we have reached will give the Agriculture Committee the flexibility it needs to craft a farm bill that works for all of our various stakeholders.”

If $8 billion proves correct, it would be a comparatively small part of spending for the 2018 farm bill, just as the $17 billion cut over 10 years agreed for the 2014 farm law was a minor part of legislation projected to cost $100 billion a year. In a report last week, the CBO projected food stamps and mandatory agriculture programs, including crop subsidies, crop insurance, and some stewardship programs, would cost $822 billion over the next 10 years.

Farm bills are broad-spectrum legislation that set the terms for farm support, public nutrition, international food aid, agricultural research, soil and water conservation, rural economic development, and forestry programs.

Food stamps are a frequent target for Republican budget cutters. Louisiana Representative Garret Graves, for example, sponsors a bill to require unemployed able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) to spend at least eight hours a week under the watch of local officials in searching for work, says the Daily Comet.

At present, ABAWDs are limited to 90 days of benefits in a three-year period unless they work at least 80 hours a month or spend an equal amount of time in a job-training or workfare program. The Trump administration would crack down on state use of waivers to allow ABAWDs to receive more than 90 days of benefits during periods of high unemployment. The Trump plan would allow waivers only in counties with an annual unemployment rate of 10% or higher.

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