Farm Bill Introduced in the House

The Agriculture Committee considers legislation today that will reauthorize SNAP and other USDA programs.

April 18, 2018

The Farm Bill, formally known as H.R. 2, the Agriculture & Nutrition Act of 2018, will be considered today in the House Agriculture Committee. The legislation was introduced last Thursday by the Committee’s Chairman, Representative Mike Conaway (R-TX). For the last four years, Rep. Conaway and his Committee have worked to craft the Farm Bill legislation, which reauthorizes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) among other programs. During their process, NACS has advocated for the critical role convenience stores play in SNAP. Today, more than 119,000 convenience stores participate in the program, providing beneficiaries with access to food in areas with limited food access and during non-traditional hours when other food retailers are closed.

NACS is following several provisions in the Conaway Farm Bill that will impact convenience stores:

Processing Fees -  This provision prohibits interchange fees, processing fees, or routing fees  on all Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) transactions. Currently, interchange fees are prohibited on all SNAP transactions. On commercial transactions, these fees are the second highest operating cost for convenience stores.

Modernizing EBT technologies – This provision calls for the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to periodically review EBT regulations and consider evolving payment technologies that are available as well as other considerations, including ease of use for beneficiaries and alternatives for securing and authenticating a transaction.

Mobile Technologies – This provision will allow for the use of mobile technologies to redeem SNAP benefits following the completion of a pilot program consisting of no more than five state agencies. If the Secretary of Agriculture determines that implementation requires further study of the pilot program, he will need to submit a report to Congress justifying the determination.

Retail Food Stores Data Collection – This provision requires FNS to conduct a retailer survey every two years that is designed to uncover what is being purchased by SNAP recipients at retail food stores.

National Gateway – This provision requires that all SNAP transactions be routed through a national gateway that will be sustained through the payment of fees by benefit issuers and third-party processors.

Rep. Conaway’s Farm Bill is projected to cost approximately $860 billion over 10-year period. The nutrition title, which reauthorizes SNAP, is by far the largest portion of the Farm Bill. SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program, was first tacked onto the Farm Bill in 1973. While the bill had historically focused on agriculture and crop programs, Congressional leadership at the time thought that by including it they would gain urban votes needed to pass what had been a rural bill. Since then, the nutrition title has included SNAP, and it remains the most controversial piece of the Farm Bill.

In addition to the provisions listed above, Rep. Conaway’s bill proposes to tighten current eligibility and work requirements for SNAP recipients, which has been a non-starter for Democratic members of the Committee. It is expected that Rep. Conaway’s Farm bill will pass the House Agriculture Committee this week by a party-line vote today.

NACS will monitor today’s committee markup of the bill. Stay tuned to the NACS Daily for developments.