A key House lawmaker defended the tightening of work requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as a way to reduce federal spending, in an interview on Agri-Pulse Newsmakers.

Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, called the SNAP program “too lenient,” and said with unemployment rates at current levels, no states should be getting waivers from SNAP work requirements.

He also said the House-passed debt ceiling bill, which would raise the age for work requirements from 49 to 55, is the proper legislative vehicle to address the work regulations – not the farm bill.

"I think the most appropriate place to do it is now in the debt ceiling," he said. 

When asked if Americans should be worried about a default, Harris said, “I don’t think so at all.”

Discussing Wednesday’s 217-215 passage of the Limit, Save, Grow Act in the House, Harris said the Republican-controlled Congress has placed its position on the table. The Democrat-controlled Senate and Biden administration now have “no excuse not to negotiate” on the issue.

The work requirements were suspended at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic but kick back in with the end of the public health emergency.

High unemployment rates are a factor in determining the acceptance of states' SNAP work requirement waivers. The national unemployment rate was 3.5% in March of 2023 and has stayed below 4% since the beginning of 2022. 

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“There is no state in the country that should be getting a waiver from a work requirement on SNAP, but they are. We have to tighten up the requirements," Harris said.

In his role as House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee chairman, Harris said he wants to “preserve as much funding as possible” for USDA and ensure that the “core functions of the USDA are there to preserve American producers.”

Roger Szemraj from OFW Law and Jim Richards with Cornerstone Government Affairs also join the show to discuss the politics of the debt ceiling debate and the looming omnibus appropriations package that will be considered this fall. 

This week’s episode of Agri-Pulse Newsmakers is available at Agri-Pulse.com.

For more news, go to www.Agri-Pulse.com.