“Today the House takes up the 2013 Farm Bill—mimicking the (which should happen once every five years) 2012 Farm Bill process.”
If that sentence sounds familiar, it should. Because if you replace the word “House” with “Senate,” we are in the exact same situation we were one month ago. Only this time, we go through the process of amendments to the House Ag Committee Farm Bill.
As CFJC enters the home stretch in our $50K in 50 Days fund appeal, the reason for our “ask” could not be clearer. Now that Congress is finally coming to terms with the trillion dollar Farm Bill, the debate is over amendments on how much to cut food stamps (SNAP) and programs that benefit beginning farmers, conservation, and innovative “specialty crops” (fruits and vegetables) successful programs.
We must have resources to partner with allies who are deciphering beltway politics and bringing light to the process for you.
Corporate lobbyists will dictate Farm Bill priorities unopposed, unless we the people raise our voices. To be clear—a strong contingent in Congress really does believe in unraveling the social safety net (food stamps) and in increasing support for mega corporations at the expense of family farms and local business. Corporate interests are just conveniently positioned to help politicians achieve those goals, and pour funding to candidates with whom they are in alignment.
But, if you disagree with their premise, you can raise your voice and do something about it!
226 amendments were filed with the Clerk yesterday, and it is as yet unclear how many of those amendments will actually be heard on the House floor, much less become part of the Farm Bill. Check the CFJC website frequently over the next few days and weeks to see how $1 Trillion in public money is allocated, and follow us on Twitter for live updates @Comfoodjustice.
Remember how the process works.
Here’s an example. In the Senate version of the Farm Bill, the SNAP program was cut by $4.5 billion. Sadly, a number of Democratic senators joined Republicans in voting for the cuts.
The House version of the Farm Bill already includes $20.5 billion in proposed cuts to SNAP. The Amendments list includes at least four proposals to increase cuts and/or limit participation by people in need. At the same time an amendment by Rep. McGovern (ME) has about 40 co-sponsors to restore the $20.5 billion in cuts.
But given the current make-up of the House (Republicans vs. Democrats), it is likely cuts of $20.5 billion at least will be in the final House Farm Bill.
What happens next?
Should we have both House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill we will in fact be farther along than Congress managed in 2012.
The next step is the Conference process.
As a reminder, in the Conference process, the leaders and ranking members of both parties serving on the Agriculture Committees in the House and Senate will meet to hammer out a single version of the Farm Bill, which must then be returned to both houses of Congress for approval.
Of course, given recent history it is probably premature to be thinking about the Conference process. Except that we have to.
Because in order for CFJC and allies to give you timely updates and information on the $1 trillion omnibus legislation that determines so much of how you nourish your families, and more (contact CFJC to learn how Farm Bill programs affect so many aspects of your family’s daily activities), we have to be working on potential scenarios.
To do so we rely on a growing network of individuals and organizations finding alignment in common purpose—to finally have a Farm Bill that prioritizes equity for beginning and other farmers, farm and food workers, SNAP benefits for people who need food, conservation, and programs that support our families, family farms, and local economies.
I want to leave you with some sobering facts and statistics.
Sometimes, depending upon the audience, it seems people think we exaggerate the urgency of need. Not so.
In recent weeks we have had the opportunity to sit on panel discussions after screenings of the documentary film, “A Place at the Table.” Here is what we learned from the film:
- 1 in 6 people in US are food insecure
- Mississippi has highest rate of food insecurity in US
- Mississippi also has the highest rate of obesity
- Both obesity and food insecurity are neighbors
- Price of fruit and veggies gone up 40% since the 80s
- Price of snack foods has dropped 40% in that same period
- If you have limited funds then you’re going to buy processed foods
- To be eligible for food stamps, a household of 3 must make less than $24,000 a year
- 80% of people on food stamps are working families
- Food stamps provide $3.00/ day
- 1 out of 2 kids today will be on food assistance sometime in their life
- Food deprivation in young kids can have lasting impacts on cognitive abilities and development
- This generation is living sicker, and will die younger than previous generations
- The increase in Child Nutrition Act funding was paid for by cutting food stamps
- We now have 40,000 food banks and pantries in the US versus 200 in 1980
- 1 in 3 kids will develop diabetes
- All of this represents the real cost of hunger and food insecurity.
- People aren’t going hungry because of a shortage of food; they are going hungry because of poverty
- The majority of food insecure households have at least one working parent.
- 1 in 4 kids are hungry
- 50 million people in the U.S. are hungry, or food insecure
We are partnering with the film’s co-director, Lori Silverbush, to set up additional screenings of A Place at the Table, because we believe it conveys a powerful message of the urgency of need.
The GOAT (Getting Our Act Together) process has been particularly useful in providing a safe place to discuss and bring light to the issues of Farm Bill policy by a growing and impressive number of organizations from across the country.
Our hope is that A Place at the Table will provide safe space around the state and across the country to discuss food, hunger and poverty.
And still we need your help. For CFJC to continue this work we need you to contribute to our Advocacy Fund now, before our fund drive ends on June 26th, so that we can create and maintain those safe spaces to have the difficult discussions.
We will continue to document and publicize the steps Congress is taking to allocate our public resources, and we will come back to you to ask what you want us to do to hold them accountable—to people, and not just the corporate interests that pour so much money into the public policy making process.
So again, we ask that you make sure your voice is heard, at your dinner tables, among your friends and family, and at your place of work.
And we ask that you make a donation to ensure that your values and voice, that the needs of our children, our families, and the people on our farms and in our communities are once again the standard of excellence in a country where greed has become a paragon of virtue.
CFJC works tirelessly to position staff strategically to advocate for your beliefs and values. Please make a contribution now, to make sure that we can continue to do so.
On behalf of all CFJC staff and volunteers, thank you for your personal commitment to the health and well-being of your community, and of communities across the country.
And please, if you are at all able, click on this link to make a contribution to the Community Food and Justice Coalition, so that we can continue to speak out and work on your behalf.
Y. Armando Nieto
Community Food and Justice Coalition