The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly for a sweeping farm bill Wednesday that will fund key safety net programs for farmers for the next five years without making significant changes to the county’s food stamp program.
The legislation has already passed the Senate and is now headed to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.
U.S. Sen Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, was one of 14 Republican senators who voted against the $867 billion farm bill Tuesday, saying it failed to include reforms to limit federal subsidies to the wealthiest farmers and many non-farmers.
The bill maintains current limits on subsidies, but includes a provision to expand the definition of family to include first cousins, nieces and nephews, making them eligible for payments under the program.
“At its core, farm policy should be a limited safety net that helps farmers weather the storm of natural disasters, unpredictable commodity markets and other unforeseen challenges,” Grassley said in a statement. “This bill goes well beyond that.”
Grassley said expanding the “loophole” for family farms allows large farmers to “manipulate the system” while creating “even larger hurdles” for young and beginning farmers.
“For years, the top 10 percent of farmers have received over 70 percent of the subsidies from the government,” Grassley’s statement said. “That’s only one of the many reasons it’s so hard for young and beginning farmers to get started.”
U.S. Sen Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, a member of the conference committee that came to agreement on the final text, voted in favor the bill, saying it strengthens conservation programs while providing “critical mental health support” for farmers.
Iowa Congressmen Rod Blum, David Loebsack, Steve King and David Young all voted in favor of the farm bill.
The vote came two days after the House and Senate reached an agreement on the final text that removed House provisions calling for tighter work requirements for food stamp recipients.
The House bill would have raised the age of recipients subject to work requirements from 49 to 59 and required parents with children older than 6 years to work or participate in job training. It also sought to limit circumstances under which families who qualify for other poverty programs would automatically be eligible for SNAP.
By contrast, the Senate bill offered modest adjustments to existing farm programs and made no changes to SNAP.
Throughout the negotiation process Trump made his support for work requirements clear, tweeting about the issue multiple times. But negotiators ultimately rejected the most controversial House measures related to SNAP, making no significant changes to the program.