Ryan praises farm bill nutrition title as Democrats criticize it
In a statement that is bound to add to speculation that House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, is under pressure to turn the nutrition title of the farm bill into welfare reform, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., praised the bill’s changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which impose work requirements and reduce spending on food in favor of job training.
“Last year, the House passed a measure which improves career and technical education, to help get more people on a steady career path,” Ryan said Thursday.
“The new government funding bill that we passed recently prioritizes apprenticeship programs, as well as child care and early Head Start programs so that it’s easier for parents to look for work. Earlier this week, the president signed an executive order aimed at increasing opportunities for those in need. And today, the Agriculture Committee is releasing a new farm bill.
“It includes reforms to help people on the SNAP program who are able to work find work, and start taking those steps toward making a good living. In states like Kansas and Maine, we have seen that an approach combining work requirements with work supports-like apprenticeships and skills training-has phenomenal success. This is going to help get more Americans out of poverty, and it’s going to help more Americans get into the workforce, while maintaining support for those in need.
“So I want to commend Chairman Conaway for his work. We look forward to making more progress on this agenda in the weeks ahead. And this was a critical component of our Better Way agenda that we’re excited about executing.”
But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., noted that all Democratic members of the House Agriculture Committee oppose the bill and said, “This partisan proposal seals Republicans’ betrayal of rural communities and working families across the nation.”
“House Republicans are hastily moving to devastate the seniors, veterans, individuals with disabilities and vulnerable communities who rely on SNAP to put food on the table. The GOP’s ‘workforce requirements’ are nothing but a cynical Trojan horse to take away SNAP from millions of hungry families, and push forward new burdensome bureaucracies that fly in the face of evidence-based policy.
“Instead of connecting Americans to actual good-paying jobs, Republicans’ latest proposal is yet another attempt by the GOP to force already hard-working Americans to foot the bill for their fiscal recklessness. After exploding the deficit with the GOP tax scam’s handouts to corporations and the 1 percent, Republicans are feverishly trying to slash Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and vital lifelines such as SNAP.
“Rural America and hard-working families deserve a balanced farm bill that reflects the reality of the struggling farm economy for the 16 million men and women of agriculture and the nearly 41 million Americans who are food insecure.
“Democrats are committed to giving the American people A Better Deal, with Better Jobs, Better Wages and Better Futures. We will never stop fighting to create jobs, lower the cost of living and give every American the tools to succeed in the 21st Century economy.”
House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn. — “It makes no sense to put the farmers and rural communities who rely on the farm bill’s safety net programs at risk in pursuit of partisan ideology on SNAP.”
“Between record low farm incomes, and the escalating threat of a trade war and other market disruptions, farmers have enough to worry about. Breaking up the long-standing, bipartisan, urban-rural farm bill alliance is a dangerous and unproductive step that will only sow division and jeopardize both this and future farm bills.
“This bill attempts to change SNAP from a feeding program to a work program. The bill rejects the testimony of 89 witnesses, and instead includes ideological language that will force people off of SNAP to pay for massive state bureaucracies that won’t work and are a waste of money. This legislation is based on false perceptions and ignores reality.
“The bill also fails to make needed improvements to the farm safety net. American farmers are suffering from the largest drop in farm income since the Great Depression but the farm safety net in this bill is inadequate and won’t help farmers. Our farmers need a safety net that will address their current reality. This farm bill fails to provide the certainty farmers need during uncertain times.”
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., a former chair of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee — “The majority’s partisan farm bill makes it clear that my Democratic colleagues on the Agriculture Committee were right to stop negotiating last month.”
“Their plan is a betrayal of working families and our most vulnerable-imposing onerous requirements on up to 6.5 million Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients. The food stamp program is essential to keep people from going hungry, helping more than 44 million Americans in 2016 alone, including nearly 35,000 families in Connecticut’s Third District.”
“The American people will not mistake this bill for real reform. If Republicans were truly serious about reforming the farm bill, they would have included limits on agricultural subsidies provided for crop insurance — one of the few federal programs without eligibility caps or payment limits. Instead of working with Democrats in good faith, they are attempting to push through a blatantly one-sided bill.”
Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, a member of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee — “The draft farm bill released today leaves much to be desired, to say the least. Written behind closed doors with little to no input from Democrats, it is the product of a frustratingly partisan process.”
“Provisions to weaken SNAP food assistance would be particularly harmful to our families and communities. While myths about widespread SNAP abuse abound, hunger is the real issue our country faces. In Maine, nearly 16 percent of our population doesn’t have access to enough food-that includes 1 in 5 children. No matter how my colleagues try to gloss things over, making it more difficult for these folks to get assistance is only going to make a bad situation even worse.
“In other ways, this legislation leaves our country’s farmers ill prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the next five years. It’s a stark contrast to the GOP tax cuts that will benefit the wealthiest of the wealthy at everyone else’s expense over the coming decade.
“Thankfully, this draft is just a first step in a longer process. Because of the partisan way it was written, I think it will have major difficulties getting a majority vote in the House, if it makes it through the Agriculture Committee at all. I will continue fighting for a better bill that doesn’t leave our farmers and most vulnerable behind.”
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., who has introduced an alternative farm bill — “To no one’s surprise, House Agriculture Committee Republicans have failed to reform the farm bill to prioritize the needs of America for a FOOD and farm policy, rather than just a select few. This draft gives more to industrial ag to shortchange family farmers and slash assistance for those who need it most.
“It doesn’t have to be this way. As the legislative process moves along, our resources must be refocused to better helping small- and medium-sized farmers, growing good food, expanding access to nutrition, and protecting the environment.”
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