House to Vote on Farm Bill Conference

House Motion Sets Stage for Senate Vote on Conference, Appointment of Conferees

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent
The House is likely to vote on a motion to proceed on the farm bill conference in a round of votes Wednesday. (DTN photo illustration by Nick Scalise)

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- The House is likely to vote on a motion to proceed on the farm bill conference in a round of votes that is scheduled to begin at 2:15 p.m. EDT Wednesday.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, is expected to go to the floor shortly before that, an aide said.

The motion to go to conference sets the stage for the Senate to vote to go to conference and for the appointment of conferees.

Conaway hopes that there can be a meeting of the conference committee or at least of the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Agriculture committees before the House leaves July 27 for a break that extends until after Labor Day, the aide said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., issued a statement Wednesday that ignored the agriculture section of the bill and emphasized that the farm bill will be "a main plank of our workforce development agenda" -- a reference to the Republicans' attempt to impose work requirements on noncash welfare programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

In his statement, Ryan said it is "great news" that 600,000 people joined the work force last month and that there are 6.6 million jobs open right now in the country -- enough for every person searching for one.

"But our labor participation rate still remains relatively low," he said. "Between 1965 and 2015, the number of prime-age men neither working nor looking for work grew more than three times faster than the number in the workforce, resulting in 7 million men missing from the labor force. One in seven 16- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. are neither in school nor working, totaling more than 5.5 million 'disconnected' youth nationwide.

"Our federal benefits framework is not doing enough to incentivize work," he continued. "The growth of federal programs provides some color -- the last time the unemployment rate was at 4%, there were 17 million Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients. Today, with that same unemployment level, there are more than 42 million. We need to reform these programs to encourage work and provide training for those who are work-capable but may not have the adequate skills to secure a good-paying job."

The House farm bill, he noted, includes work requirements and "supports" for people to find work. Ryan also pointed out that a White House Council of Economic Advisers report "notes the effectiveness of work-promoting incentives like the Earned Income Tax Credit. Work requirements for SNAP may act as a complement to these credits, pulling even more people out of poverty and onto a path to prosperity."

Critics, including House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., have said that the work requirements in the House bill are impractical. Critics have also said that SNAP is an anti-hunger program, not a jobs program.


Jerry Hagstrom