The Farm Bill Expired. What comes next?

Following a meeting between the leaders on the Agriculture Committee during the last week of September, it became clear that Congress would not pass a final farm bill before the current bill expired on September 30, 2018. While staff will continue to work through the differences between the House and Senate bills in October, members of the House travelled back to their districts, and we don’t expect a final bill until after the election.

So what happens to SNAP and other programs since the farm bill expires on September 30th? The good news is that there will be no changes to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), as well as TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program), CSFP (Commodity Supplemental Food Program), and FDPIR (Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations); these programs will continue to be funded and operate as usual. FINI (Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive) grants, on the other hand, were funded just through fiscal year 2018 in the previous farm bill. Both the House and Senate farm bills include funding for FINI to continue, but applications for new FINI grants for the next fiscal year may be delayed until a new Farm Bill is enacted.

It is our understanding that most of the larger farm programs, including crop insurance and commodity policy, will also continue to operate without any changes. There are, however, several smaller programs that will run out of funding soon after the September 30 deadline. Blog posts from the National Farmers Union and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition provide examples of programs that will run out of funding, which impact conservation, natural resource concerns, value-added agriculture, organic agriculture, beginning farmers, farmers of color, and local and regional food systems.

The next steps to protect SNAP from harmful changes or cuts. Advocacy efforts will continue to push members of Congress to reject the harmful House SNAP provisions and accept the strong, bipartisan SNAP provisions in the Senate version of the farm bill. Here is a reminder of the cuts and changes to SNAP outlined in the House bill.

Over the past several months, Montanans from all walks of life have sent clear messages to the Montana congressional delegation to strengthen and support SNAP in the 2018 farm bill, as outlined in the current Senate bill.

We know SNAP works. In 2016, the program lifted 3.6 million people out of poverty and provided many more with temporary assistance between jobs or in crisis. When House and Senate members negotiate a final Farm Bill, they should take the approach of the Senate — working in a bipartisan manner to produce a bill that improves, rather than weakens, SNAP for the families who rely on the program. Our Montana delegation members need to continue to hear from their constituents. To learn more about SNAP, check out our report, SNAP Helps Grow a Healthy Workforce and a Healthy Economy and our recent blog, Indian Country Could be Hardest Hit by Changes to SNAP in 2018 Farm Bill.

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