“SNAP is essential in protecting the most vulnerable citizens during tough times, but we need to have a complete understanding of its mission and purpose.” That was the message from House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway this week as the committee began its top-to-bottom review of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps.
Committee Finishes Work for First Session, Looks Ahead to Next Year's Comprehensive Farm Policy Review
Today, by a vote of 296-135 the House of Representatives brought the first session of the 106th Congress to a close by passing a compromise final appropriation bill (H.R. 3194) which included an additional $576 million in emergency disaster assistance for agriculture and implementation of the dairy reform known as Option 1-A.
"We've made a lot of progress this year on a wide variety of issues affecting America's farmers and ranchers," House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX) said. "We've met the challenge of helping producers through another disastrous crop year, and we've made significant gains in creating a stronger safety net for the future. I'm looking forward to continuing this work next year with a review of all aspects of federal agricultural policy."
H.R. 3194 provides $576 million in additional emergency funding to meet the needs of producers and their families who suffered weather disasters this year. This funding will provide for $2.5 billion in loans and $198.6 million in direct assistance.
Also included in the final appropriations legislation is language mandating that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) implement Option 1-A. In addition, the Northeast Dairy Compact will be extended for another two years.
"In the coming year, there's a lot of work to be done. We're going to be looking at all aspects of federal agriculture policy from regulations to trade to creating a better safety net," Combest said. "By working together with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and the administration, I'm confident that it will be a successful and productive year.
In addition to the provisions contained in the final appropriations bill, this year the House Agriculture has made significant gains in working for America's farmer and ranchers including:
$8.7 billion in emergency funds due to a second consecutive year of unprecedented weather losses and lost value of crops and livestock sold at market.
Crop insurance reform (H.R. 2559) passed the House committing $6 billion to the farm safety net and reducing the need for Congress resort to ad hoc disaster assistance. Coverage becomes more affordable, with protection against price and production volatility, increased insurable yields, and new coverage for livestock producers.
Improving the marketing of meat and to encourage competition, the House Agriculture Committee fostered the agreement of producers and packers to achieve mandatory livestock price reporting at each step in the purchase and sale of cattle, hogs, and lamb.
Reversing USDA's shortfall in budget planning, Congress provided $415 million supplemental funding for local county office operations, replenishment of USDA loan accounts, additional livestock disaster assistance payments, and Conservation Reserve Program technical assistance to farmers and ranchers.