Updates and Next Steps on the Farm Bill(s)

U.S. House Farm Bill (H.R. 2) Would Hurt Women and Their Families
By: Elizabeth Kleinhenz

Key Legislative Updates as of June 21:

  • On June 21, the House passed their version of the Farm Bill (H.R. 2) during a re-vote. The already harmful bill gained troubling new amendments that remain in the pending legislation.
  • The House version of the Farm Bill imposes strict and unnecessary additional work requirements on SNAP recipients and threatens food access for millions of Americans. The so called “work requirements” will be especially harmful to single mothers and families. 
  • The final vote, 213-211, was largely on party lines, with all yes votes from House Republicans and a few Republicans joined the Democrats in voting no, although no Ohioan members did so. See how your member of Congress vote here. 

More than 1.4 million Ohioans in nearly 700,000 households rely on federal food assistance. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s most effective anti-hunger program. But the House Farm Bill currently pending before Congress (H.R. 2) would cut food aid by more than $17 billion over 10 years and change SNAP in ways that would threaten the economic and physical security of women and families. The House failed to pass the bill when it was up for a vote on May 18, with all Democratic members and 30 Republican members voting against the harmful legislation. The bill was defeated with the help of ‘NO’ votes from conservative Republican members who voted against it in order to force a hardline vote on an Immigration Bill. Now, it will be up for another vote on June 22, and it’s clear that this harmful, partisan plan must be defeated.

H.R. 2 would impose harsher, unforgiving, and burdensome requirements to SNAP, which would cause many to lose access to program – taking food away from working families and making it more difficult to find work. SNAP already requires participants to register for work and accept a position if offered, with certain exemptions. Able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) under age 50 face special work requirements and can only receive benefits for three months out of every three years unless they are working 20 hours per week. But the Farm Bill would make these requirements even tougher by mandating work for all ABAWDs under age 60, by requiring participants to prove every month that they worked for 20 hours per week or qualified for an exemption, and by increasing the work requirement to 25 hours per week beginning in 2026.

For starters, the Farm Bill is a wasteful and partisan bill, which would only make it more difficult for families to succeed. This legislation abandons the bi-partisan history of SNAP, instead imposing wasteful provisions that weaken the program and missing an opportunity to move forward meaningful investments in job training and education programs. The Farm Bill would waste taxpayer money on a bureaucratic system to track and operate the imposed changes to SNAP.

These changes are deeply flawed: “work requirements” don’t work and the evidence shows it. They cuts to SNAP ignores the numerous studies and evidence demonstrating that so-called work requirements in other safety net programs have not been effective in helping people maintain long-term employment. These studies find that any increases in employment seeming to follow from work requirements were relatively small and tended to fade over time, and that they have failed to substantially reduce poverty among safety net participants. In fact, when new or harsher requirements were added, most participants remained in poverty and some even become poorer. The bottom line is that work requirements hurt more than they help. Adding bureaucratic barriers to accessing SNAP is the wrong strategy to promote healthy communities..

SNAP is especially critical for women, who make up 63 percent of adult program recipients, and the stricter requirements would be particularly harmful for women and their families who depend on the program to make ends meet. The new requirements in the pending Farm Bill are a bad deal for everyone, but women stand to bear the greatest burden. Women are more likely to hold low-wage, part-time and informal jobs. The unpredictable nature of these jobs means that women would face systemic barriers to meeting the proposed requirements and would be at greater risk of losing vital food assistance.

Women are also the majority of caregivers—and the low-wage jobs in which they are concentrated usually offer minimal workplace flexibility to fulfill caregiving responsibilities. Therefore, new “work requirements” in the Farm Bill would exacerbate the conflict between providing care and securing material needs that too many women already face. And no matter where women are forced to sacrifice, their families suffer. While SNAP currently exempts parents with children under age six from the general “work requirement,” two-thirds of children receiving SNAP benefits are school-aged and parents still need to arrange care for older children after school, during vacations, and when they need medical attention. Therefore, this exemption is insufficient to mitigate harmful changes in the pending legislation.

The Farm Bill would require single parents to participate in the federal child support enforcement program. Currently, states can choose whether SNAP recipients must participate in this enforcement program and only a few have mandated it. Adopting this requirement at the national level would prevent women from making their own decisions about their safety and that of their families. Single parents, most of whom are mothers, may have good reasons for deciding not to engage with child support enforcement officials: they may wish to avoid jeopardizing relationships with the noncustodial parent, or incurring risk if there is a history of domestic violence. No single parent should feel compelled to choose between food assistance and physical security.

This deeply flawed bill is now even worse due to amendments added in the first vote. The House adopted an amendment that would make it harder for states to get certain waivers for “work requirements,” including waivers for high-unemployment areas and for the harsher new requirements mandated by the legislation. The House also adopted amendments that would cut the bill’s funding for job training programs, allow states to privatize SNAP operations, and deny food assistance to people who are re-integrating into society after incarceration for certain convictions. All told, these and other changes increased the bill’s SNAP benefit cut by $4.9 billion.

H.R. 2 is bad for women—and the consequences don’t stop there. The proposed changes to SNAP would make too many women face harmful trade-offs in order to meet a basic human need: having enough to eat. And when women face impossible decisions, the livelihood of their families and the strength of our state economy hang in the balance.

The focus now is on the Senate with their own version of the bill. The Senate Agriculture Committee nearly unanimously passed a bipartisan bill that supports farmers and protects SNAP. Leadership on both sides of the aisle worked hard to draft a fair and effective piece of legislation.

That bill heads to the Senate floor this week, and we’ll be watching carefully to ensure that no dangerous amendments are added; such as work requirements or the privatization of SNAP. The key to protecting children and families will be urging Senators to support the committee’s bipartisan draft of the bill and protect SNAP from harmful amendments.

Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to contact Senators Brown and Portman. Urge them to support this bipartisan version of the Farm Bill, without adding harmful amendments to the bill. Tell them:

“Please support the bipartisan Senate farm bill that protects and strengthens SNAP. I strongly urge you to oppose any amendments that would cut SNAP or make harmful changes that would take away food assistance from struggling families who need help. These amendments would be particularly harmful to women and their families.”