Final Score in Markup: David Letterman 17, Kid on Food Stamps 4
Yesterday, the Senate Agriculture Committee was presented with a choice during its committee markup on the Farm Bill. An amendment was sponsored by Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), a man I really admire for his integrity and passion on the issue of hunger. The amendment would have put $1.6 billion over 5 years into reducing hunger through the Food Stamp Program and the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). The improvements would help to update an antiquated benefit calculation that has depleted the purchasing power of Food Stamps, and restore food to the nation’s food banks that are facing shortages.
Better yet, it would be cost-neutral, because it would have paid for these improvements by reigning in federal payments to landowners and farmers who happen to own land that was producing certain crops decades ago. In recent years, landowners like David Letterman have received these "direct payments," even when crop prices have been at historically high levels.
I'll be the first to recognize that there are many smaller farmers who count on direct payments to make an honest living. I'm from Oregon, and there are lots of small wheat farmers in the eastern part of the state that receive a just few thousand dollars in direct payments. However, the committee proposal earmarks $26 Billion over five years for direct payments, and much of this goes to large landowners who simply don't need it. And at $1.6 Billion, Senator Lugar's proposal would trim back just 6% of this payment program. Since this is developing rapidly, I haven’t seen the specific language of the amendment, but I bet you a milkshake that this adjustment is not aimed smaller farmers.
Seventeen Senators now have to look their constituents in the eyes and tell them that they chose the interests of a few select landowners over a policy that would result in fewer kids going hungry.
Four Senators stood up for what’s right. Kudos, Senators Lugar, McConnell, Brown, and Casey.
If you're as upset as me, here's the number for the capitol switchboard: 1-800-826-3688 - The ayes and nays listed below... A vote on the Farm Bill may come up in the Senate within the next week, so there’s still time for the Senate to do the right thing.
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