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Former President Donald Trump endorsed U.S. Rep. Ted Budd in North Carolina's U.S. Senate race. Former President Donald Trump endorsed U.S. Rep. Ted Budd in North Carolina's U.S. Senate race.

Former President Donald Trump endorsed U.S. Rep. Ted Budd in North Carolina's U.S. Senate race.

Paul Specht
By Paul Specht August 3, 2021

Trump's farm bill, food stamps, and North Carolina's GOP Senate candidates

If Your Time is short

  • North Carolina U.S. Senate candidates Mark Walker and Ted Budd were both in Congress when Trump signed the farm bill in 2018.
  • Walker voted for it and Budd voted against it.
  • However, Walker's description of the bill is misleading. It did not include major changes to work requirements for people seeking welfare benefits.

A Republican U.S. Senate candidate in North Carolina is questioning a primary opponent’s commitment to local farmers and to policies championed by former President Donald Trump.

Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker took exception when U.S. Rep. Ted Budd tweeted on July 16 that he supports North Carolina’s agriculture industry. Walker tweeted: 

"False. In 2018, while I worked with Ron DeSantis and Pres Trump to pass a Farm Bill that helped farmers, invest in rural broadband, and added work requirements for able-bodied adults, Budd voted NO." (DeSantis was a Florida congressman then.)

Walker, Budd and former North Carolina governor Pat McCrory are three of the biggest names among the six candidates on the Republican side. McCrory, piggy-backing on Walker’s tweet, also took the opportunity to bash Budd.

Their tweets aim to erode Republican voters’ trust in Budd, who Trump endorsed. In this fact check, we’ll explore the following questions:

  • Is Walker right about their voting records on the farm bill?

  • Did Walker accurately describe the farm bill’s contents?

  • What does Budd say about the vote, and is his explanation accurate?

It turns out, Walker is right about Budd opposing the farm bill. The bill did also expand the government’s rural broadband loan program.

But Walker’s suggestion that it "added work requirements for able-bodied adults" is misleading. One major reason the bill became law: the Senate scrapped the House’s proposed changes to the welfare eligibility requirements.

What the record shows

The federal farm bill is usually renewed every five years. And in 2018, Republicans controlled the House, Senate and White House. However, they struggled to pass legislation as their members disagreed over policies affecting agriculture, food stamps and even immigration.

Budd and Walker were in Congress in 2018 and at times voted with different wings of their party on the legislation, which was revised several times.

In a May 18 vote on an early version of the farm bill, officially known as the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Budd voted no and Walker voted yes. 

While Walker voted with House leadership in support of the bill, Budd opposed it along with members of the conservative Freedom Caucus. The caucus withheld its support because leadership didn’t commit to a vote on their preferred immigration bill.

In a June 21 vote, both voted yes on a version that aimed to reform the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known for providing food stamps. The bill sought to tighten eligibility criteria and impose stricter work requirements on up to 7 million food stamp recipients, Politico reported

In a Dec. 12 vote, the House approved a bill that strayed from their June 21 version and adopted more of the Senate’s preferences. Walker supported the compromise bill and Budd voted no. On Dec. 20, Trump signed this version of the bill.

Walker’s description

Walker said the bill "helped farmers, invest(ed) in rural broadband, and added work requirements for able-bodied adults."

It’s fair to say the first two claims in that sentence are true. However, the part about work requirements is misleading.

The bill that Walker voted on (and Trump signed) famously left out major SNAP benefit changes that the House passed and Trump initially called for

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A report by the Congressional Research Service said the bill made only a "few eligibility changes. Specifically, the bill "reduced state waivers for work requirements, meaning states could exempt only 12% of their SNAP recipients from work requirements, as opposed to the 15% in the 2014 Farm Bill," according to a blog on the Harvard University’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation website

The omission of major changes, though, was "key" in reaching a compromise, according to an expert who wrote a paper on the bill negotiations.

It was also one of the reasons Budd opposed it, according to senior campaign advisor Jonathan Felts. 

"The 2018 Farm Bill stripped out the important reforms that would have promoted more stringent work requirements for those receiving welfare assistance," Felts said.

The Walker campaign, for its part, pointed out that Trump announced efforts to increase work requirements when he signed the bill.

"Millions of able-bodied, working-age adults continue to collect food stamps without working or even looking for work," Trump said during the bill-signing ceremony on Dec. 20. "Therefore, I have directed (Agriculture Secretary Sonny) Perdue to use his authority under the law to close work requirement loopholes in the food stamp program. Under this new rule, able-bodied adults without dependents will have to work, or look for work, in order to receive their food stamps."

But that effort was separate from the farm bill, and quickly faced legal challenges. Last October, a federal judge blocked Trump’s rule to apply work requirements through the Agriculture Department.

Budd’s explanation

Apart from the SNAP benefits, PolitiFact wondered if the Budd campaign’s description of farm subsidies was accurate. In that email to PolitiFact, Felts described it this way:

"As any family farmer will tell you, you don’t support the farm by giving away the farm, and the 2018 Farm bill was bloated with overspending that also left out critical reforms to federal farm subsidies that would have better directed federal assistance to small, family farms that needed it the most."

Vincent Smith, an agriculture policy expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, agreed that the bill was bloated.

Virtually "any self respecting economist would say that money is flowing to folks that don’t need it and businesses that would be perfectly viable without it," Smith told PolitiFact NC in a phone interview.

What about Budd’s claim that the bill left out reforms that would have "directed federal assistance to small, family farms that needed it?" Smith said Budd has a point, but that his explanation could give people a misconception about American farm ownership.

"The candidate is right that these monies (in the farm bill) were heavily targeted to the largest farms," Smith said. "Now, 98% of all farms would describe themselves as family-owned farms. Only 2% are owned by significant corporate entities."

In other words, it would be misleading to suggest the farm bill didn’t help family farms. It did. But Budd is right that larger farms benefit the most from the government’s system for offering more subsidies to farms that produce more crops.

To be clear, the bill when signed simply renewed many of the agriculture policies that were already law. And while many agricultural groups supported the bill, it also had its critics.

Farm Aid, the group founded by Willie Nelson and other musicians, commended Congress for finally passing the legislation. However, it said the bill "fails spectacularly" to address the core challenges facing farms.

"The future of family farm agriculture requires a dramatic shift in policy towards fair pricing, supply management programs, cracking down on corporate goliaths and accelerated attention to the climate crisis. By those standards, this farm bill fails," the group wrote on Dec. 20.

Our ruling

Walker said that he voted for the farm bill, which "added work requirements for able-bodied adults" and that Budd voted no.

It’s true that Walker voted for the bill that Trump signed and Budd voted against it. However, it’s misleading for Walker to say the bill "added work requirements for able-bodied adults."

Walker voted for more work requirements in a bill the House passed in June, but the version that Trump signed didn’t include those requirements. 

The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context. We rate it Half True.

Our Sources

Tweet by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Walker on July 19, 2021.

Email exchange with Jonathan Felts, senior advisor to the Ted Budd U.S. Senate campaign.

Email exchange with Jack Minor, spokesman for the Mark Walker campaign.

Telephone interview with Vincent Smith, an agriculture policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute.

Story by WRAL, "Trump endorses Ted Budd after daughter-in-law declines to enter Senate race," posted June 5, 2021.

Story by NPR, "House farm bill fails as conservatives revolt over immigration," posted May 18, 2018.

Voting records for the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 on Congress.gov.

Story by ABC News, "Farm bill fails in the House after conservatives buck GOP leaders," posted May 18, 2018.

Story by Politico, "House farm bill passes with controversial food stamp changes," posted June 21, 2018.

Report by the Congressional Research Service, "2018 Farm Bill Primer: SNAP and Nutrition Title Programs," published Jan. 30, 2019.

Report by the Congressional Research Service, "The 2018 Farm Bill (P.L. 115-334): Summary

and Side-by-Side Comparison," updated Feb. 22, 2019.

Blog by Harvard University’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, "Farm Bill passes House and Senate," posted Dec. 13, 2018.

Blog by AARP, "Farm Bill Passage Protects Food Assistance for Older Americans," posted Dec. 20, 2018.

Stories by the Washington Post, "President Trump signs $867 billion farm bill into law," posted Dec. 20, 2018; "14 states, D.C. and New York City sue to stop Trump plan to slash food stamps for 700,000 unemployed people," posted Jan. 16, 2020; "Federal judge strikes down Trump plan to slash food stamps for 700,000 unemployed Americans," posted Oct. 18, 2020.

Story by Reuters, "Senate approves farm bill compromise that avoids food stamp cuts," posted Dec. 11, 2018. 

Story by The Atlantic, "The Art of the Farm-Bill Deal," posted Dec. 11, 2018.

Story by The Hill, "Trump calls for food stamp work requirements in farm bill," posted Aug. 2, 2018.

Paper in the Fordham Environmental Law Review, "The 2018 Farm Bill: Legislative Compromise

in the Trump Era," published in Spring 2019.

Transcript of President Trump’s remarks about the Farm Bill on Dec. 20, 2018.

Story by the New York Times, "Trump Administration Moves to Restrict Food Stamp Access the Farm Bill Protected," posted Dec. 20, 2018.

Blog by the American Enterprise Institute, "Where the money goes: The distribution of crop insurance and other farm subsidy payments," posted Jan. 9, 2018.

Blog by Farm Aid, "What’s in the 2018 Farm Bill? The Good, The Bad and The Offal…," posted Dec. 20, 2018.

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Trump's farm bill, food stamps, and North Carolina's GOP Senate candidates

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