Farm Bill and Opioids Bill
Farming is essential to our way of life. Of course, we all rely on farmers to get food to our tables. Our economy also depends on agriculture, Virginia’s largest private industry and an important part of the Ninth District.
We count on farmers, and farmers need stable, consistent policies from Washington. That’s why the farm bill recently passed by the House of Representatives is so important.
I supported this year’s farm bill. It maintains programs vital to farmers and the rural communities where they live and work. It also offers reforms that will improve lives.
Changes made by the 2018 farm bill also regard the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), which is included in the farm bill because the U.S. Department of Agriculture administers it. This year’s farm bill enhances work requirements for SNAP recipients, obligating able-bodied adults to participate in work or related activities for 20 hours per week.
I believe these reforms will help move people toward new fulfilling opportunities.
The work requirements are only imposed on able-bodied adults who do not have small or disabled children. They do not affect people who are disabled.
Further, the options for satisfying work requirements aren’t limited to finding a job. SNAP recipients can meet the requirements by searching for a job, participating in job training, or community service.
The point of work requirements isn’t to kick people off SNAP; it’s to help SNAP recipients. People engaged in meaningful pursuits such as work or education feel more positively about themselves. They are rightly able to take pride in progress toward supporting themselves and their families.
Although work requirements have received the most attention, other aspects of the farm bill will improve our rural communities. It reauthorizes crop insurance and authorizes funding for rural broadband and other important infrastructure. Regulations are streamlined and reduced, so farmers can focus on their tasks and not red tape.
All of us depend on farmers, and this farm bill will help them.
House Action on Opioids
In my last column, I discussed bipartisan efforts to combat the opioid crisis taking the lives of over 100 Americans on average each day. These efforts culminated in the passage of H.R. 6, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act, by the House on June 22. A large majority of Democrats and Republicans supported the bill.
Several ideas to curb opioid abuse I have written about in this space are included in the bill. I am optimistic in particular about updates to Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs). Data can improve our understanding of how opioids affect people, and a lot of data can be found in the PDMPs tracking prescriptions in states.
Knowing that a patient has a history of addiction would guide the system to look for non-addictive treatments. I’ve been approached both at public events and in tele-town halls by people with chronic conditions who benefit from monitored opioid use. They are worried that we will take away their treatment. I believe that if someone truly benefits from painkillers, PDMP data would reflect that fact, and allow an easing of restrictions for those truly in need.
Provisions in the bills I offered provide federal support to state PDMPs, enhance their ability to collect data, and require state Medicaid providers to use PDMP data when treating patients. This is of importance to an area such as the Ninth District, which borders several states (as a recent Roanoke Times editorial noted, Ewing in Lee County is closer to the capitals of nine other states than it is to Richmond). This legislation encourages communication between the PDMPs of different states.
H.R. 6 also includes the bill introduced by Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Gene Green (D-TX) to authorize more comprehensive treatment centers. Although it’s a pilot program, it may lay down a foundation for future expansion so people in more parts of the country have access to the personalized care offered by treatment centers.
The full Senate has yet to act on major opioid legislation, and then the House and the Senate must cooperate to get a bill to the President’s desk. Nevertheless, passage of H.R. 6 is a milestone in the fight against opioid abuse.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.