The Texas Republican said supporters of the food stamp program no longer have a reason to support farm programs unless there’s the prospect of increased spending for it.
“We’re going to have to create an urban-rural alliance that helps us pass the next farm bill that’s not based or held together by the SNAP program,” Conaway told the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture on Tuesday.
“We’ve got to do a better job of convincing urban America why a strong production agriculture and a vibrant rural America is important to them."
Conaway’s remark came in response to concerns raised by Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain that SNAP was still part of the farm bill, which he said inflates the cost of the legislation in the public’s mind. “I still believe it’s time to separate the two. Let’s get out there and fight for the commodity section on its own merits,” Strain said.
Conaway responded, “As part of the overall review of the whole SNAP program that discussion will be held.”
House conservatives forced GOP leaders to split SNAP from the farm bill in 2013 but a House-Senate conference committee put the legislation back together at the insistence of Democrats. Conaway has said his committee will conduct a "soup-to-nuts" investigation of the food stamp program in coming months.
Meanwhile, the committee has scheduled its first hearing in Conaway's tenure for next Wednesday, with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as the witness. He is likely to be asked about a broad range of issues, including implementation of the 2014 farm bill.