Amid Fight Over SNAP Benefits, Illinois Lobbyist Sees Upsides Of Farm Bill | WGLT

Amid Fight Over SNAP Benefits, Illinois Lobbyist Sees Upsides Of Farm Bill

Jun 28, 2018

The House version of a new farm bill would impose tough new work requirements on recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.

The bill was the focus of a keynote presentation Thursday at BN by the Numbers. Adam Nielsen, chief lobbyist for the Illinois Farm Bureau, said the farm bill impacts more than farmers.

Chief Lobbyist for the Illinois Farm Bureau Adam Nielsen discusses the 2018 farm bill in a keynote at BN by the Numbers on Thursday, June 28, 2018.
Credit Mary Cullen / WGLT

“It’s important for consumers to understand that this is a coherent food security policy that supports the production of food and fiber, it helps conserve soil, and then, again, the big picture: to address nutritional needs,” Nielsen said.

Bloomington-Normal’s two congressional districts (13th and 18th) have around 63,000 homes that benefit from SNAP, according to a 2016 survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The $876 billion package, covering much of U.S. farm and food policy, narrowly passed out of the House last week with a 213 to 211 vote, the first farm bill ever with only Republican support. It was supported by both U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, and Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap.

The measure restricts who is eligible to receive SNAP aid and also requires millions of Americans who receive food through government assistance to work 20 hours per week, enroll in job training programs or be cut off from those benefits.

Democrats have been relentless in their opposition to the changes to SNAP, arguing the new provisions are cruel and will cause food insecurity for millions of Americans.

Republicans say the program has grown far too large and is unsustainable. Imposing job requirements, they argue, will promote self-sufficiency, push people into the workforce and help lower the number of people on government assistance.

Nielsen said a farm bill should have bipartisan support, but efforts to include welfare reform detracted from the measure.

“This bill does so much for so many people that it should get 300 votes in the House," Nielsen said. "There should not be any question that it’s going to pass as long as it’s good policy. But the politics really entered the picture here.”

Nielsen said the Senate version has bipartisan support. It passed easily Thursday by an 86-11 vote.

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