Ag Policy Blog

Work Requirements Not Worth Shutting Down Farm Bill

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — The work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beneficiaries are a good idea, but not worth “shutting down” the farm bill, Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Mich., told sugar growers this week.

“I think work requirements are a good idea. Is that something to shut the farm bill down over? I don’t think so,” said Moolenaar in a speech to the American Sugar Alliance, a gathering of the nation’s beet and cane growers.

Moolenaar said he believes that the House and Senate “will get there” on a conference report on the farm bill.

“We want to be part of a Congress that solves problems,” he said.

Moolenaar also said he believes the Republicans will retain control of the House this fall.

“We have a great economy” with a growth rate of 4 percent that “exceeds the unemployment rate,” he said. President Trump’s negotiations have resulted in bringing home the remains of fallen soldiers from North Korea, and “people respect that the president is trying to negotiate better trade deals,” he said.

Moolenaar said he would like to bring back earmarks on legislation, but he does not see how that can happen because the image of earmarks is so negative.

Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., also spoke to the group. Kildee said he hopes that when the farm bill conference report comes up for consideration, it looks more like the Senate farm bill than the House bill.

“It’s strange for a House member to say,” Kildee said, but he said he is not pleased with the House bill’s work requirements on beneficiaries of the program formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and make it more difficult for low-income people to qualify for it.

Kildee defended the inclusion of nutrition programs in the farm bill, saying there is a certain “elegance” in placing programs that benefit farmers and hungry people in the same bill.

Kildee also said he believes the level of partisanship in Congress today is “dangerous.”

Activity in the House, he said, should be “based on a healthy debate but also on long-term relationships.”

But he acknowledged that “it has gotten so far out of hand, it’s like warring tribes sometimes” with members forgetting the basic manners they were taught by their parents.

Kildee said an exception came when the city of Flint in his district faced a water crisis and he turned to Moolenaar, who represents an adjoining district, for assistance.

The strong vote against an amendment sponsored by Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., to change the sugar program this spring showed that the House wanted to protect a domestic industry, Kildee said, but sugar growers still need to be on guard to protect the program.

Kildee has said he would be interested in serving in the House Democratic leadership, but declined to tell the sugar growers what position he would like to hold.

If he is elected to the leadership, Kildee said, he would not want to treat the Republicans the same way they have treated the Democrats in the current Congress.

“It would be a tragic mistake if we end up in the majority and we turn tables on the minority,” he said.

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