Leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture committees say the debt limit agreement should remove SNAP work requirements as a potential sticking point in the upcoming farm bill debate, but also said the deal takes away some potential funding.

The agreement to increase the debt ceiling claws back some unspent pandemic assistance to reduce the deficit. Leaders of the committees disagreed on whether there would still be a significant amount of additional, unobligated funding that could be moved into the farm bill to shore up commodity programs and other provisions.

The agreement “takes the issue of SNAP work requirements off the table,” Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., told reporters Tuesday evening. “So, that's just one less issue we're going to have to negotiate.” 

“I think it helps the farm bill process, absolutely,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson told Agri-Pulse about the agreement on SNAP work requirements. 

The debt ceiling bill, called the Fiscal Responsibility Act, increases the maximum age for SNAP work requirements from 49 to 54, but also adds exemptions for the homeless, veterans and young people under 24 who have left the foster care system. The House Rules Committee advanced the bill Tuesday evening, clearing the way for a Wednesday vote to send the measure to the Senate.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated Tuesday that the SNAP provisions would wind up costing taxpayers $2.1 billion over 10 years because 78,000 people would gain benefits in an average month due to the new exemptions, which more than offset the impact of the increased age limit. 

The top Democrat on the House Ag Committee, David Scott of Georgia, had been outspoken for weeks in his opposition to expanding work requirements, but he welcomed the new exemptions.

“I’ve been preaching about the veterans, and he (President Joe Biden) provided leadership on that,” Scott told reporters.

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But Thompson pushed back on the CBO’s cost estimates of the SNAP changes, telling Agri-Pulse, “They got their numbers wrong.”

Under existing rules, able-bodied adults without dependents from 18 to 49 must work or be in a training program at least 80 hours a month. Otherwise, they can get SNAP benefits for three months of every three years. 

Thompson didn’t rule out that the House Agriculture Committee would consider provisions addressing other eligibility issues. The committee has scheduled a hearing on SNAP next week. 

Neither Stabenow nor Thompson thought the debt limit deal would affect the timing for writing a new farm bill. 

“We've got a lot of work to do yet, and information we need from CBO, and other information, and it's just it's going to take time to get this done,” said Stabenow. 

Thompson said he expected House Ag to consider a bill in September. He also said there was more unspent funding that could be folded into the farm bill but wasn’t sure of the amount. Stabenow said she didn’t think there was any significant amount of money remaining available.  

“I would love it if in this default agreement, they had decided to provide more resources to agriculture and the rural community to be able to write a robust farm bill that we need. That didn't happen,” Stabenow said.  

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