What the Trump White House could not achieve in the recently enacted farm bill, it now is seeking on its own through a proposed rule change. Thus, U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, a Cleveland Democrat, wasn’t out of line in harshly describing the maneuver as involving “cruel, deceitful and underhanded ways to target the poor.”

Congress spoke in holding harmless the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps. That deserves respect, especially with the give and take resulting in bipartisan majorities backing the bill.

What kind of change does the president propose? He would narrow significantly eligibility for the program, putting many of the most vulnerable Americans at risk of losing assistance that helps make ends meet.

Currently, able-bodied adults between ages 18 and 49 who are not raising minor children are barred from accessing food assistance for more than three months during a three-year period unless they are working or participating in an education or training program. Yet the federal government long has permitted states to seek a waiver easing the time restriction in areas of higher unemployment. Ohio and 35 other states now have such permission. Many also have put aside exemptions for later use, a practice called “stockpiling” that aids responsiveness.

The White House proposes to raise the unemployment threshold and restrict the waiver to one year at a time, ending “stockpiling” and worse, making the waiver system all but disappear. In unveiling the change, Sonny Perdue, the agriculture secretary, stressed restoring “integrity” to the program or ensuring that “those who are able to work do so in exchange for food benefits.”

Worth noting is the administration wants to depart from a waiver practice that has been part of food assistance since welfare reform two decades ago, Democratic and Republican administrations granting exemptions.

Does food assistance discourage work? Lauren Bauer of the Brookings Institution has looked closely at this age 18-49 segment of the population. She reports that many navigate transitions from work to joblessness to work, reflecting the realities of the workplace and their own lack of skills or absence of resources. So, while they may be out of work, they remain part of the labor force.

Bauer cites a tiny one-half of 1 percent as without work due to a lack of interest. More, many who are not working face a health reason or disability that prevents their employment.

They are not slackers. Rather, they are poor, among the poorest of the poor as Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, their average income just one-third of the federal poverty level. Greenstein adds that for many recipients, food assistance is the only such aid they can receive.

This isn’t a population deserving of a crackdown. That is particularly so in view of the limited assistance, the maximum benefit for an individual in 2016 at $194 per month, and the estimated average that year, $142 per month. The food assistance program also has improved its performance, waste and fraud down sharply, 95 percent of funding today going straight to benefits.

Congress had all of this in mind in crafting the final farm bill. A bipartisan majority chose to keep the waiver program essentially as it is, or certainly not use the legislation as a vehicle to make things worse for many of the country’s most vulnerable. Little evidence indicates that food assistance somehow discourages work. What is evident is how the program helps those much in need.