As Trump plans to sign farm bill, USDA issues SNAP rule

President Donald Trump is scheduled to sign the farm bill at 2:30 p.m. today, and the Agriculture Department is scheduled to publish a final rule on its plans to rein in state waivers from the work requirement for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs).

Members of Congress, industry stakeholders, and farmers from across the country are expected to join the president at the signing in the South Court Auditorium.

The Agriculture Department released a fact sheet on the SNAP rule. (See link for details of the rule.)

The proposal of tight rules for ABAWDs “will give President Trump comfort enough to sign a farm bill he might otherwise oppose,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said at a press briefing, according to the the Food and Environment Reporting Network.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, praised the rule, while Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., denounced it.

“This is an issue we took head-on in the House-passed farm bill, creating a roadmap for states to more effectively engage ABAWDs in this booming economy,” Conaway said. “Paired with the farm bill’s modernized E&T [education and training] programming and increased investment, this proposed rule will allow ABAWDs to seek new opportunities and achieve their goals. I applaud the proposed rule and proudly stand with the Trump administration in demonstrating the importance of state accountability and recipient success.”

Stabenow said the rule would increase obstacles for families participating in SNAP.

“Congress writes laws, and the administration is required to write rules based on the law, not the other way around,” Stabenow said in a news release. “Congress chose not to change the current SNAP work rules in the farm bill and, instead, focused on strengthening work programs that actually help people get jobs.

“This regulation blatantly ignores the bipartisan farm bill that the president is signing today and disregards over 20 years of history giving states flexibility to request waivers based on local job conditions,” she added. “I expect the rule will face significant opposition and legal challenges.

“Administrative changes should not be driven by ideology. I do not support unilateral and unjustified changes that would take food away from families.”

Stabenow’s office added in a background statement, “SNAP already has strong work requirements in place, which are working. The current regulations, put into place by President George W. Bush, give states the authority to request a waiver from restrictions on the amount of time able-bodied adults can receive SNAP unless they consistently work a minimum number of hours. These waivers are critical during recessions and in areas with labor surpluses. Making the proposed changes to state flexibility because of a low national unemployment rate would make it harder for states to address their individual needs down the line.”

The farm bill conference report, Stabenow’s office said, “explicitly states that waivers are necessary in areas with higher unemployment, and Congress intends to continue to give state SNAP agencies the responsibility for determining when and how waivers are submitted. Earlier this year, during the consideration of the Senate farm bill, 68 senators from both parties opposed an amendment that would have increased barriers for families on nutrition assistance and taken away states’ rights to issue waivers.”

Bob Greenstein, president of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, said in a statement, “The president reportedly plans to make draconian changes in a key SNAP (food stamp) rule, cutting off basic food assistance for hundreds of thousands of the nation’s poorest and most destitute people. Having failed to secure these harmful changes in the bipartisan farm bill that Congress just completed, the Administration is now moving to implement them through administrative action. Contrary to expected Administration rhetoric about helping people work, the proposal’s overwhelming impact will be to cut impoverished people off assistance and increase hardship substantially, rather than raising employment or helping people find jobs.”

Ellen Vollinger of the Food Research & Action Center told The Hagstrom Report late Wednesday that FRAC had not seen the details, but that it appeared that the new regulations would “take food away from people who are struggling.”

“The previous regulations have worked very well,” Vollinger said. “This is a crazy holiday message – more hunger and hardship, not hope and goodwill.”

–The Hagstrom Report