The Farm Bill
What is the Farm Bill?
The Farm Bill is a piece of legislation that covers both agriculture as well as the federal nutrition programs. Nearly all of the federal programs that help feed people are covered in this legislation. Every five years, Congress reauthorizes the Farm Bill and approves spending on programs that help farmers grow food and helps families put food on the table.
How does the Farm Bill impact hunger?
The first line of defense against hunger is a program called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), which is funded through the Farm Bill. SNAP is available to low-income individuals and families. Participants receive a card that is loaded with benefits every month that may only be used for food (not at restaurants and not prepared food). The amount of benefits that are loaded onto the card depend on the participant’s income, their expenses, and the size of their family. SNAP allows families to shop in the grocery store for food that fits their diet and cultural preferences. It is used by 700,000 Wisconsinites and moves people from the food pantry into the grocery store.
In Wisconsin, 40% of SNAP participants are children, about 25% are either elderly, blind or disabled and 80% of households include someone who is already working.
The Farm Bill also funds the other nutrition programs, part of what’s called the “Nutrition Title.” Learn about some of the other nutrition programs that impact hunger, here.
What should you know about the 2018 Farm Bill?
The House and Senate each passes a version of the Farm Bill. Each bill then gets sent to Conference Committee. The Conference Committee then puts forward one bill, which is sent to both the House and Senate. After it passes both House and Senate it is sent to the President to sign into law.
The House Version of the Farm Bill
The House of Representatives passed their version of the Farm Bill on June 21st, 2018.
The vote was very close, with 213 Republicans voting for the bill, all Democrats and 20 Republicans voting against the bill, and many of those in opposition citing the harmful SNAP provisions as a reason for their “NO” vote.
What should you know about the House Farm Bill?
- The harsh and partisan farm bill would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by nearly $19 billion and take away food assistance from 2 million struggling Americans, including children, seniors, and veterans in our state.
- The estimated annual reduction in FoodShare benefits available to Wisconsin residents would be approximately $23.8 million. (In calendar year 2017, Wisconsin FoodShare benefits costs totaled approximately $867.2 million, so the reduction in benefits is estimated to be approximately 2.7% of the total.)
Wisconsin children stand to lose the most in the House Farm Bill.
- 75,720 Wisconsinites are expected to lose benefits, 23,369 of them being children.
- The children that lose benefits would likely lose their ability to access free or reduced priced school meals.
The Senate Version of the Farm Bill
The US Senate passed their version of the Farm Bill on June 28th, 2018. The bill passed with overwhelmingly bipartisan support with 86 Senators voting YES and 11 voting NO.
The Senate Farm Bill is vastly different from the House Farm Bill. The Senate version protects SNAP and does not include the harsh cuts and restrictions included in the House version.
What happens next?
Both versions of the Farm Bill will head to Conference Committee, where the House and Senate will produce a single bill to be voted upon by both houses of Congress.
As the process continues, Hunger Task Force will continue to advocate for a strong Farm Bill that protects and strengthens SNAP and nutrition programs that Wisconsin children and families depend on.