U.S. House OKs farm bill with major food stamps changes

A pedestrian walks past the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a massive Republican farm bill with changes to the government food stamps program that make it unlikely to become law in this form.

The Senate is considering its own farm bill with no major changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) used by more than 40 million Americans, or about 12 percent of the total U.S. population.

The House passed the $867 billion farm bill in a 213-to-211 vote, earning the support of some conservative Republicans who helped defeat it in May after its renewal became entangled in an unrelated debate over immigration.

Farm bills are massive, providing funding for diverse programs including food aid, crop subsidies, rural development, conservation and efforts to stem the opioid crisis in rural communities. The last bill came into effect in 2014, two years behind schedule, after extensive congressional negotiations and partisan fights over food stamps.

The Republican SNAP proposals in the current farm bill would expand the number of non-disabled individuals subject to work requirements by raising the top age to 59 from 49 and including more people caring for school-age children. It would also put new limits on state governors’ ability to waive work requirements in economically depressed areas.

Democrats opposed the farm bill, which typically gets bipartisan support, due to the proposed SNAP changes. The Senate, where Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority and passing most legislation requires 60 votes, is working on its own bipartisan version of the legislation.

Reporting by Amanda Becker; Additional reporting by Mark Weinraub; Editing by Richard Chang