Jan. 13, 2016 - After completing a series of major bills in 2015, the House
Agriculture Committee will be turning to more oversight work this year.
Conaway, R-Texas, plans to continue the committee’s investigation of the
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The panel held its 10th hearing on
SNAP on Tuesday. It will also will be
looking into how the farm bill is working for producers who are struggling with
lower commodity prices, he said. His focus: “Does the farm bill work? … Is it keeping people in
continues to push Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to help cotton producers by
allowing cottonseed oil to qualify as an oilseed for the Agriculture Risk
Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs. Vilsack told the American Farm Bureau Federation that may require congressional action, which would throw the issue
into Conaway’s lap. Conaway contends Vilsack can do it on his own.
last year approved in fairly rapid order bills that would preempt state biotech
labeling laws, repeal country-of-origin labeling rules, and reauthorize the
Commodity Futures Trading Commission, federal grain standards and livestock
reporting. The COOL repeal was enacted in December and the grain standards and
livestock reporting measures passed earlier. “We had a great first year in
terms of reauthorizations,” Conaway said.
labeling bill and CFTC reauthorization are still pending at the Senate
Agriculture Committee chaired by Pat Roberts. The Kansas Republican wants the
bills passed, but first he must move a school nutrition reauthorization
measure, which the panel is scheduled to mark up Jan. 20.
Conaway’s SNAP review has been set back somewhat with the departure of a
senior aide, Anne DeCesaro, who was overseeing the effort. She has returned to the staff of the Human Resources
Subcommittee of Ways and Means, where she worked from 2011 to 2014.
SNAP review should fit into House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan to undertake a broad
overhaul of welfare programs in the next Congress, Conaway said. He expressed
concern, however, that a series of welfare-to-work pilot projects has gotten off
to a slow start. Conaway wants to use the lessons from the projects in writing
the next farm bill.
been decided” as to how SNAP might be changed, Conaway told Agri-Pulse.
“We’re just looking at SNAP to see if anything needs to be done.”
are wary nevertheless. The ranking
member of the nutrition subcommittee, Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, said at
Tuesday’s hearing that he believes Republicans still want to turn SNAP over to
the states to run via block grants, an idea Ryan has advocated in the past.
is that block-granting SNAP would be catastrophic for the program. Funding
would be capped and states would either have to reduce the benefit – which we
know from these hearings is already inadequate – or cut people off. Either way,
it would make hunger worse,” McGovern said.
each of four witnesses representing the interests of active-duty military,
veterans and senior citizens said they were not in favor of block-granting
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