Finally, the Senate bill does not provide a realistic blueprint for financial sustainability for small farmers.
House Action: Cutting SNAP
The House Republicans want to go much further in cutting SNAP benefits. They sought to add to the Senate's SNAP cuts by making it harder for the working poor, such as those with child-care costs, to qualify for the program (by eliminating categorical eligibility). Anti-hunger groups unleashed a national grassroots mobilization against the cuts, forcing almost all Democrats to vote against the Republican bill. The Republican leadership had counted on 40 votes from Democrats, but got only half that number. And, when some House conservatives also voted no--some because the SNAP cuts weren't big enough, some because they oppose the size of subsidies to large agribusiness and wealthy investors--the bill was stunningly defeated.
Some felt this might knock some sense into the House leadership. Instead, the leadership doubled down. They stripped SNAP out of the Farm Bill and passed that version.
The House leadership now wants to double the size of the cuts to SNAP to $40 billion, by penalizing those unable to find a job (e.g. imposing a food-stamp workfare program for able-bodied adults).
If the Republicans want people to work, they should provide a job with a paycheck to all those who want one by creating public works programs similar to those FDR put in place during the Great Depression. Workfare has never been successful in helping to move people into jobs. It is successful only in reducing the number of people who receive benefits.
One doesn't end hunger--or create jobs--by taking food away from people. In the last 30 years the rich have gotten richer, while everyone else's income has either stagnated or declined. The richest one-percent of New York State residents now get 35% of the income. The last time we saw such great economic disparity was right before the Great Depression. When working people don't make enough money, consumer demand is too low and the economy collapses.
It is also a mistake to try to separate feeding hungry Americans from the farm bill. The farm bill should be about creating sound food policy for the country, one that supports family farmers, promotes healthy food, ends hunger, and protects the environment.
Where do we go from here?
Many reformers long ago walked away from the Farm Bill fight in disgust over the constant gridlock, with no end in sight. But the threats and challenges still remain.
It is time for Americans to demand real change that ends hunger and lifts up all Americans from family farmers and food workers to senior citizens and children.
GOAT (Getting Our Act Together) is a
progressive coalition coordinating actions among various issue concerns. It
recently drafted a letter by several hundred groups outlining what Congress
should do. It states:
"A full and fair Farm Bill must include farm, food and nutrition, conservation, and rural economic development programs. This includes:
- Full funding for SNAP and farm
- Crop insurance and commodity subsidy reforms which include elimination of direct payments, payment limit reform, national sodsaver, and conservation; and,
- Robust provisions and funding to increase economic opportunity for the nation's diverse family, farm and food workers, and rural and urban communities..
"We support removing elements that make the bill less fair and that weaken protections for consumers, including those in need of food assistance; or of farmers, labor and the environment. These include those related to the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Act (GIPSA) and Fair Labor Standards Act.
"We need funding for the so-called stranded programs--support for beginning, socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers; rural economic development and job creation; renewable energy; fruit and vegetable production; organic farmers; local and regional food systems; farmers markets; healthy food access; and community food and urban agriculture projects."
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