Farm Bill Advances in House, Includes SNAP Program Changes

The House Agriculture Committee advanced H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, to the full House for consideration by a vote of 26 to 20. Introduced by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) on April 12, the legislation would reauthorize many U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Many convenience stores that are owned and operated by truckstop and travel plaza operators redeem SNAP benefits and  play an important role in the SNAP program, especially in areas where there are few other locations for financially challenged Americans to purchase food.

Of interest to NATSO members, the bill would make several changes to the SNAP program. Specifically, the legislation would require retailers that accept SNAP benefits to report to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the items SNAP beneficiaries are purchasing in their stores. The retail food store transaction data must be reported in a way that prevents individual retailers and SNAP participants from being identified.  The bill also would ban processing fees associated with “switching” or routing electronic benefits transfer (EBT) transactions. The provision, which is supported by retailers, was drafted after certain EBT processors tried to impose processing fees on EBT transactions.

[NATSO, SNAP Retailers Oppose Additional Processing Fees]

Furthermore, the Farm Bill includes controversial provisions that would strengthen work requirements for millions of SNAP beneficiaries and restrict broad-based categorical eligibility—a process through which households, if they qualify for certain other forms of government assistance -- may become automatically eligible for SNAP benefits. 

Although SNAP participants over the age of 15 and under the age of 60 are currently required to work, the Farm Bill changes the age range to “at least 18 years of age and less than 60” who are not disabled, pregnant or caring for a child under the age of 6.  SNAP participants age 18 to 59 must participate in employment and training or a work program, or any combination of work, participation in employment and training or a work program a minimum of 20 hours per week starting in 2021. The minimum requirement would increase to 25 hours per week in 2026. 

The Farm Bill further requires states to offer and update minimum services in employment and training so that every covered individual may meet the SNAP work requirements, proposing to more than triple the amount of money spent on education and work training for SNAP participants. Democrats oppose these provisions, and to that end, all Democrats on the Committee voted against advancing the bill. 

Committee members spent the majority of the markup debating the proposed changes to SNAP, and no amendments were offered to the Nutrition Title. Democrats argued that the proposals to increase work requirements and narrow eligibility are cruel to citizens with a lower income, while Republicans defended the provisions as a pathway out of poverty.  Despite Democrats opposition to the bill, Chairman Conaway hopes the House will consider the bill in April or May.



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