Farm Bill: Next Steps
By Robin Stephenson
This week the Senate passed its version of the farm bill, with 66 “yes” votes and 27 “no” votes. The Senate version included $4.1 billion in cuts to SNAP, the program that serves as our nation’s first line of defense against hunger. As high rates of unemployment and underemployment and a tough economic climate persist, this safety-net program has been a godsend for those struggling to make ends meet. Now is not the time to cut a program that is reducing hunger in America.
Next week, the House of Representatives is expected to begin voting on its version of the farm bill, which includes even more drastic cuts to the domestic nutrition program than the Senate’s bill: SNAP would be slashed by $20.5 billion under the House proposal. If these huge cuts become law, millions of families would see a reduction in their nutrition assistance – vulnerable populations such as the elderly and children would be hit especially hard. Churches and charities, for all they do, cannot absorb such an increase in need.
It is critical that Bread members speak out now. Even if you have already done so, contact your representative again. House members must hear repeatedly from constituents that a farm bill with any cuts to SNAP should be met with a “no” vote, and such extreme cuts need to be met with extreme outrage.
Silence is approval, but a loud response from voters calling for protection of programs for hungry and poor people can have a long-term effect. “If you defeat the SNAP cuts in the farm bill, they’ll start taking anti-hunger advocacy seriously,” says Eric Mitchell, Bread for the World’s director of government relations. “When it comes to the farm bill,” he explains, “many members of Congress cater to all the different special interests; it‘s time they take nutrition seriously.”
Coalition partners are gearing up for a coordinated call-in day on Tuesday, June 18. Early next week, expect to receive an action alert from Bread for the World asking you to contact Congress, even if you called or emailed as recently as last week. “This is a critical time,” says Mitchell.
Mitchell, along with the government relations team and the organizing department, will give an update on the farm bill and other key issues during next Tuesday’s national grassroots conference call and webinar, so be sure to register for this session. SNAP, food aid, and the latest news on the sequester will be discussed.
Bread for the World opposes any cuts to SNAP in the farm bill and is asking members of Congress to vote “no” if the bill comes to the floor. If the House version passes, then the House and Senate bills enter conference, meaning they come up with a compromise between the two bills, which would then be voted on by both chambers. Going into conference with $20.5 billion in SNAP cuts as a starting point would make it extremely difficult to come to a compromise that would protect programs that help hungry and poor people.
If the House version of the farm bill is defeated on the floor, some options for moving forward might include sending the draft back to the agriculture committee for changes, another short- or long-term extension of the farm bill, or leadership may choose to vote on the Senate bill.
But no matter what is decided, Bread for the World will continue to spread the message that SNAP works and should not be cut in any final piece of farm bill legislation.
Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.
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