Armando Nieto, Executive Director
In the interests of transparency, this month I want to write about how CFJC staff and volunteers are responding to the Farm Bill, which begins the Conference process October 28th; to the government shutdown; and to the rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)—and our appeals for your financial help.
I should also share about the hate mail we get, from people who believe we don’t know what we are talking about; or people who believe and spread lies about SNAP recipients, immigrants, and the very idea of providing health care insurance to poor people.
That is why you need to contribute to CFJC—because billionaires are funding a massive campaign of disinformation that cuts to the heart of our collective beliefs and our democracy.
More anon, but the Farm Bill is back on track with both House and Senate Conferees set to begin work on October 28th.
First and foremost, our basic message remains the same: please contact your legislators and tell them we want a
Full and Fair Farm Bill, and to reject the drastic cuts to SNAP-Ed and SNAP benefits.
But the Farm Bill is more than SNAP, although admittedly the largest portion—75-78% for SNAP, depending on what is cut—with nearly $1 trillion in total Farm Bill funding, that still leaves a significant amount of money to be allocated among numerous titles and programs.
And here is where transparency is really important to CFJC.
Whether or not the Farm Bill Conference process is televised on CSPAN or if advocates are allowed into the hearings, it is very likely that most of the deliberations will take place behind closed doors.
The tactics we therefore choose to employ are targeted Conference Letters, citing specific titles and programs for which we advocate—on your behalf.
In the normal course of our business, we would survey our membership before putting pen to paper. Then, we would take your priorities, and make sure they were included in any Conference letter we deliver/sign on to. However, given the Conference process and timeline, there just is not time.
What you can rely on, however, is that we confer with our partners and allies, via the GOAT process—which produced the Full and Fair Farm Bill Statement which is signed by more than 420 group from across the country—and which is proving to be a place where those groups and communities—and you—can safely hold discourse on how to effectively advocate. We will likely therefore help prepare and sign on to a GOAT Conference Letter that will be delivered to Conferees next week, probably on Monday, when Senator Stabenow has indicated the Conference process will begin.
But before then, we will review letters prepared by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the Rural Coalition, National Family Farmers Coalition, and others, and sign on to them as a show of solidarity, and because we believe in their work and priorities.
You can always contact any of us directly at CFJC for updates, or to weigh in on how we should advocate for your Farm Bill priorities.
In these most interesting of times, the Farm Bill, large as it is, however, is only a piece of what we as citizens are obligated to pay attention to.
The sixteen day government shutdown generated a lot of press, and conflicting statements on what services and which people were affected. Federal employees, certainly. Veterans locked out of memorial sites received a lot of notice. As did visitors to national parks, which were closed.
It is interesting and sad that the entire picture painted by national media left out for the most part those affected by the shutdown. Beginning with SNAP, food programs, housing allowances, and the fabric of social services we still make available in these chaotic financial times. For weeks the phone lines have been filled with people asking what all the politicking will mean for recipients.
Congressional hearings have already started, regarding what comprised the $24 billion shutdown price tag. Can we please hear from you, to help drown out the self-righteous ideologues who continue to rant?
Which of course, brings us to the Affordable Care Act.
In our last fund appeal, we asked if Social Security, when it was introduced, was vilified as much as “Obamacare” is now.
Before long, we will have to begin the really difficult conversations regarding the Affordable Care Act.
First, why the unrelenting push back? Sure, the issue has generated so many lies—Rep. Michele Bachmann says it will prove fatal for Americans (Huffington Post, 9/27/13)—which is so ludicrous, it is tempting to just laugh it off. But when our leaders make such unfounded claims, is it a surprise that Tea Party activists pick up on them, and we see pictures of the Confederate flag waving in front of the White House?
These are powerful images, inflammatory remarks, that must not go unchallenged.
We have to ask if all of this isn’t just so much smoke screen because the family occupying the White House is black—African American, and there is a mindset that just cannot accept that fact of life.
I am not writing to incite passions. I am writing to ask the hard questions, that we’d be foolish to ignore.
CFJC is on the front lines, in Oakland, California, Atlanta, Georgia, and Washington, D.C. And also in your community, if you need a partner to hold the hard conversations.
We think it is time.
We could use some help. Your help.
So please, contact your Representatives.
And send help directly to CFJC as well. Please give what you can, as you continue to join with us in the grand struggle to take back our food system, and our country.
On behalf of staff, the CFJC Steering Committee, and all our wonderful interns and volunteers, thank you so much for you support, and continued involvement in the issues.
All the best.
Y. Armando Nieto