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Hamilton Place Strategies

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Three Things To Know About SNAP
Ahead Of The 2018 Farm Bill
Things To Know: POLICYMAKERS have begun SNAP participation rates
to outline the 2018 Farm Bill, have shifted red in presi-
the omnibus package touch- dential elections.
1. States with the
ing everything from farm
highest SNAP production and conserva- • Increases in SNAP par-
participation rates tion to regulatory programs ticipation are more con-
have shifted to and inspection services. The centrated in the South-
include more right- largest share of discussion east, and participants are
leaning states. will likely center around the in both rural and urban
Supplemental Nutrition As- communities.
sistance Program, or SNAP.
2. Increases in SNAP Debates recur around wheth- • The SNAP participation
participation are er or not this rate remains
more concentrated is the year for elevated de-
in the Southeast. the program to The largest share of spite improve-
separate from discussion around the ment in the
the bill and live 2018 Farm Bill will unemployment
3. The SNAP
on its own, as rate since the
participation likely center around
then-House recession.
rate remains Budget Com- the Supplemental
elevated despite mittee Chair- Nutrition Assistance Political Shift
improvement in the man Paul Ryan Program, or SNAP.
unemployment rate. (R-Wisc.) sug- While welfare
gested in 2013, programs are
or if reform to the expansive generally associated with
program might improve the the political left, a closer
Tucker Warren
benefits available to SNAP look at SNAP beneficiaries
Rob Terra
participants without breaking tells a more nuanced story.
Andrea Christianson
the budget. Over the past two decades,
Ali Rohde
the states with the high-
Helen Hathaway
Here are three things policy- est participation rates in
Asha Thanki
makers should keep in mind SNAP have shifted to include
about SNAP as the 2018 right-leaning states or have
The views expressed in this doc- Farm Bill is drafted: become more right-leaning.
ument represent those of the Exhibit 1 displays the ten
authors alone. • States with the highest states with the highest SNAP
participation rates in election
years from 1992 to 2016 and
how each state voted in that
year’s presidential election.

The overall shift of SNAP
participation from Demo-
cratic-voting to Republi-
can-voting states is due to
a couple of factors. First,
the 1996 Farm Bill and its
ensuing “Welfare Reform”
largely reduced the scope of
SNAP. This means the top
SNAP-participating states
thereafter were the ones
with populations most in
need and who still qualified
under the more restrictive
eligibility requirements.
Americans often vote against reliant on SNAP, according
Second, many of the states
their own economic inter- to the U.S. Department of
that voted for
ests.2 Agriculture. By 2015 - and
the Democrat-
ic presiden- States with the as shown in Exhibit 2 -over
highest SNAP Regional In- 15 percent of the population
tial candidate
tensity in every southeastern state
later voted for participation rates
the Republi- were SNAP beneficiaries.3
have mostly shifted Americans
can candidate to be politically
in subsequent living in the Oregon remains an outlier
conservative. Southeast of the national trend. Data
elections.
These include have always from the U.S. Department
Tennessee, Kentucky, West had a particu- of Agriculture shows nearly
Virginia, and Louisiana. lar interest in the Farm Bill. 20 percent of Oregon’s resi-
With their agriculture-based dents were enrolled in SNAP
The fact that the states with economies, they look to in 2015—a significant con-
the highest SNAP participa- Congress to support the trast to neighbors Califor-
tion rates have mostly shift- agricultural industry through nia and Idaho, whose SNAP
ed to be politically conserva- the bill. This region, howev- participation rates rested at
tive is surprising, given that er, also has a vested interest 11.3 percent and 11.9 percent
the Republican political ide- in the food security provided respectively.4
ology does not traditionally by SNAP.
support welfare programs.1 Oregon’s eligibility require-
Interestingly, a large portion While SNAP participation ments are more generous
of SNAP beneficiaries do not has been on the rise across than those in the Southeast,
widely support the welfare the country, the increases however. A qualifying par-
program, part of the larger have been particularly con- ticipant in Oregon wouldn’t
phenomenon described in centrated in the Southeast. qualify if they resided in
Thomas Frank’s book What’s In 1990, only Louisiana and Mississippi. Catlin Nchako
the Matter with Kansas?, in Mississippi had more than 15 and Lexin Cai’s 2017 research
which politically conservative percent of their populations shows 25 percent of Oregon’s
Hamilton Place Strategies 2
There are a myriad of takes
on why SNAP participation
has remained elevated de-
spite unemployment’s re-
covery. As Robert Shapiro
observed for the Brookings
Institution, most job oppor-
tunities post-Recession were
for degree-holders, with
recovery skewed toward a
subset of Americans poten-
tially less likely to participate
in SNAP.7 Or perhaps, as the
Urban Institute’s Sheila Ze-
dlewski, Elaine Waxman, and
Craig Gundersen have pos-
ited, SNAP has transformed
into a stabilizer for families
that do not qualify for oth-
SNAP participants receive an
er assistance programs and
income 100 percent above The SNAP participation rate
fills in where other tempo-
the poverty line, while only 9 reached a high of 19 per-
rary assistance programs fall
percent of Mississippi’s SNAP cent in 2011, with the Bureau
short.8
beneficiaries meet the same of Labor Statistics pegging
standard.5 unemployment around 8.9 When the Farm Bill was last
percent. SNAP participation debated, one in five Amer-
Elevated Participation decreased only slightly to icans was receiving food
17 percent in 2017 while the assistance. While the rate
After nationwide SNAP par- unemployment rate fell to has declined since 2014, pol-
ticipation as a percentage of 4.41 percent.
population slowed from 13
percent in 1992 to 9 per-
cent in 2002, the 2002 Farm
Bill expanded eligibility to
the program to be more
wide-reaching than past it-
erations.6 Consequently, the
participation rate’s trajectory
reversed.

SNAP participation rates
have historically maintained
a similarly-paced rise and
fall to the unemployment
rate. As unemployment be-
gan to decline post-Great
Recession, SNAP participa-
tion remained uniquely ele-
vated (as seen in Exhibit 3).
Hamilton Place Strategies 3
icymakers will still be decid- 4
Ibid.
ing on the future of a pro-
Lexin Cai and Catlin Nchako,
5
gram whose benefits remain “A Closer Look at Who Benefits
far-reaching across the U.S. from SNAP: State-by-State Fact
Sheets,” Center on Budget and
Conclusion Policy Priorities, 2/16/17.
<https://www.
cbpp.org/research/
As discussion No matter what a-closer-look-
around the at-who-benefits-
2018 Farm Bill
Congress decides
from-snap-state-
picks up, it is to do, Americans in by-state-fact-
important for every state and of sheets>.
policymak- every political party 6
“Supplemental
ers know who will be affected. Nutrition Assis-
exactly will tance Program
be affected (SNAP),” United
by any changes. SNAP is a States Department Of Agriculture:
critical component of the Food And Nutrition Service, ac-
cessed 1/30/16.
bill and merits an especially <https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/
deep understanding. Wheth- short-history-snap>.
er Congress decides to in-
crease or decrease funding, 7
Robert Shapiro, “The New Eco-
tighten or roll back eligibility nomics Of Jobs Is Bad News For
Working-Class Americans - And
requirements, or complete- Maybe For Trump,” Brookings In-
ly divorce SNAP legislation stitution, 1/16/18.
from the larger Farm Bill, <https://www.brookings.edu/blog/
Americans in every state and fixgov/2018/01/16/the-new-eco-
of every political party will nomics-of-jobs-is-bad-news-
for-working-class-americans-
be affected. and-maybe-for-trump/>.

Endnotes 8
Sheila Zedlewski, Elaine Waxman,
and Craig Gundersen, “SNAP’s Role
1
“Republican Platform: Great In The Great Recession And Be-
American Families, Education, yond,” Urban Institute and Feeding
Healthcare, and Criminal Justice,” America, July 2012.
Republican National Committee, <https://www.urban.org/
accessed 2/9/18. sites/default/files/publica-
<https://www.gop.com/platform/ tion/25626/412613-SNAP-s-Role-
renewing-american-values/>. in-the-Great-Recession-and-Be-
yond.PDF>.
2
Thomas Frank, What’s The Mat-
ter with Kansas?: How Conservatives
Won the Heart of America (New York:
Metropolitan Books, 2004).

3
“Supplemental Nutrition Assis-
tance Program (SNAP),” United
States Department Of Agriculture:
Food And Nutrition Service, ac-
cessed 1/30/16.
<https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/
short-history-snap>.

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