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Farm Bill Reauthorization

Farm Bill ReauthorizationWith the current Farm Bill expiring, reauthorization legislation is one of the most likely bills to pass this year. The legislation covers a broader range of topics than the name suggests. Most significantly, more than 75% of the over $700 billion in baseline five-year spending is for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Previously known as food stamps, SNAP is the nation’s largest food benefits program for those in need. Each year about 42 million Americans receive a total of over $120 billion (an average of between $2,500 and $3,000) in SNAP benefits to help them put food on the table. Another 5% of Farm Bill spending is for conservation programs on farms and in our nation’s forests.

Modifications to SNAP benefits are perhaps the most significant changes to the Farm Bill being contemplated, including changes to the size of the benefits and work requirements. Currently, able-bodied SNAP recipients aged 19-49 without dependents generally can receive no more than three months of benefits within a three-year period unless they work or participate in job training for at least 20 hours per week or participate in a drug or alcohol treatment program. States can obtain waivers that allow them to reduce the federal work requirements.

If we were to pick this issue, the brief would focus on the most meaningful proposals to change provisions in the current farm bill, including:

  • SNAP Spending Levels—Increase, decrease, or keep overall SNAP spending the same
  • SNAP Work Requirements—Increase or keep SNAP work requirements the same
  • State Exceptions for SNAP Work Requirements—Restrict or increase the ability of states to obtain exceptions to federal work requirements
  • SNAP Fraud—Increase oversight and enforcement of SNAP fraud
  • SNAP Healthy Food Requirements—Restrict SNAP benefits so that they cannot be used to purchase unhealthy foods like soda or potato chips
  • Conservation Spending Levels—Increase, decrease, or keep funding for conservation programs the same
Congressional Rank: 1st
(2.9 Average Rank across participating congressional offices)

Achievability Note

With better than an 85% chance of passing, the Farm Bill reauthorization is uniquely achievable legislation in 2023. In the four years we’ve picked issues, we’ve never had one on the list nearly this likely to pass. In fact, the likelihood of passage is so high it raises a question about whether it would be a good choice for us. If it’s that likely to pass anyway, is it a good use of our unique ability to help Congress pass bipartisan solutions it might not be able to pass without us? On the other hand, what exactly is included in the Farm Bill is far from certain. Many Republicans are advocating for lower overall spending, including on SNAP and conservation, and increased SNAP work requirements. Many Democrats are advocating for more SNAP and conservation spending and oppose increasing SNAP work requirements. By picking this issue, we could make a difference by identifying where there is bipartisan grassroots support and where there isn’t.