Strict Work Requirements to Get Food Stamps, But Not Farm Subsidies

Proposals to tighten work requirements for low-income Americans who receive food stamps are halting progress on a new farm bill – meanwhile, work requirements for farm subsidies are almost nonexistent.

A first draft of the House farm bill was expected by the end of March, but it’s been held up. Some members of the House Agriculture Committee want to tighten work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, but others vehemently object. One proposal aims to increase the age for work requirements from 60 to 65, meaning many retired people would have to go back to work or lose their benefits.

This is in stark contrast to farm subsidy programs such as Agriculture Risk Coverage, or ARC, and Price Loss Coverage, or PLC. Farmers can receive payments from both programs even if they don’t work on the farm. In the 2014 Farm Bill, Congress established rules that subsidy recipients must be “actively engaged in farming.” But these rules are so lax that a farmer does not have to lift a finger on the farm to receive a payment. The USDA even considers farmers to be “actively engaged in farming” up to two years after they have died.

Payment limits for ARC and PLC are also inflated. Farmers can receive up to $125,000 per person, or $250,000 per couple each year, while yearly maximum SNAP benefits are only $2,304 for one person or $4,224 for two. SNAP recipients can’t receive benefits indefinitely, but farmers can receive ARC or PLC payments every single year.

Farmers with high incomes get the most subsidies. Any farmer who makes less than $900,000 a year in income, or $1.8 million for a couple, is eligible for ARC and PLC payments. SNAP recipients must make less than $15,684 a year for one person or $21,120 for two people to receive any benefits.

The craziest part is that out of all the extremely generous rules that apply to ARC and PLC, not one applies to the crop insurance program. Farmers can receive unlimited crop insurance payments without these strings attached.

SNAP recipients already have to meet rigorous requirements before they receive one penny from the government. Why should farm subsidy recipients, most of whom have considerably higher incomes than the average American, get a free pass on their way to the federal feed trough?

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