As farm bill negotiations continue in a House and Senate conference committee, an agreement has reportedly been reached on the nutrition title of the measure, which has been the most contentious difference between the two chambers' farm bills. The agreement would reportedly reduce the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $8 billion over ten years; the original Senate farm bill would have cut SNAP by roughly $4 billion over ten years, while the original House bill proposed $40 billion in cuts over the same period. Part of the controversy over cuts to SNAP centered around the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) program. Under current law, states can automatically enroll individuals in SNAP if those individuals receive LIHEAP benefits; this permitted some states to give nominal LIHEAP benefits as low as $1 to some residents so that those residents would automatically qualify for SNAP. Reportedly, farm bill conferees have agreed to raise the minimum LIHEAP benefit level that would allow individuals to automatically qualify for SNAP.
While conferees are confident that a final bill can be produced by the end of the month, challenges also remain around the dairy supply provision under the commodity title of the measure. On January 9, farm bill conferees were expected to meet, but ongoing difficulties with the commodity title and other pressing legislative issues delayed this meeting, likely until the week of January 13. Both chambers of Congress will be in recess between January 18 and January 26. NACo will continue to monitor the progression of farm bill negotiations.