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Why Splitting the Farm Bill Would Hurt Hungry People

A farmer in the Mississippi Delta region (Todd Post).

If you've been paying close attention to the farm bill's movement in Congress, you may have heard about a recent proposal from members of the House of Representatives to "split" this vital piece of legislation.

Such a split would divide the farm bill into two pieces—one on farm programs, another on nutrition assistance, including SNAP (formerly food stamps)—which would require separate votes. Members of Congress in favor of the split say that it would end the House stalemate around SNAP cuts, which they believe has dominated farm bill negotiations to the detriment of farm subsidies. Those against the split believe it is being proposed as a way to make it easier to slash programs, specifically SNAP, rather than working toward a compromise and an equal distribution of cuts. 

SNAP is part of the farm bill for a reason—its presence there is deliberate and important. The bill originally included agriculture and nutrition provisions because it was designed to link the problems of hunger and agriculture surplus, in an effort to address both. Today, the farm bill still covers a variety of titles governing food in the United States. This allows the connected pieces of our food system, as well as intertwined issues related to food and hunger, to be addressed by one piece of legislation. With 16 cents of every dollar spent on food going back to farmers and other producers, splitting the farm bill and making nutrition programs such as SNAP vulnerable to deep cuts will not only hamper the ability of people to buy food, but have consequences for those involved in the farming, manufacturing, and processing of our food.

"Splitting the farm bill puts these programs at even greater risk of cuts and harmful policy changes," says Eric Mitchell, Bread for the World's director of government relations. "Congress has never failed to pass a bipartisan farm bill that governs our entire food system; not only addressing what is grown on the farm, but also ensuring that all families have the ability to put food on the table."

The proposal to split the bill comes after the House of Representatives failed to pass a version of the farm bill that included more than $20 billion in cuts to SNAP. Bread for the World was opposed to the original House farm bill, because it contained drastic cuts to SNAP and international food aid, and is also against splitting the bill. 

"We urge the House to work in a bipartisan way and craft a bill that protects and strengthens our nutrition safety net and improves our international food aid system," Mitchell says.

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Speak out! If the farm bill is split, both SNAP and international food aid will be at greater risk of deeper cuts and harmful policy changes. Ask your members of Congress to ensure a place at the table for hungry and poor people by protecting programs vital to them.

 

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Comments

The $17 trillion dollar fed. debt is unsupportable. Separating farm and social programs will allow each program to be examined and restructured according to the will of the taxpayer. Exactly the same thing is being forced on the department of defense through sequestration. Cuts to the military industrial complex are required and long overdue. So also are cuts to the social service complex. The tax payer simply cannot continue to pay for such expansive federalism. The U.S. can no longer be the policeman of or the food producer for the world.

The federal debt is fully supportable. The federal government spends money into existence. It can never run out of keystrokes. A sovereign currency issuing country can never be forced into default when the "debt" that it issues is in its own currency. Can you find a single holder of interest-bearing Treasury securities that would prefer to hold non-interest bearing dollar bills? The call for austerity is based on a misunderstanding of how federal government spending works. The deficit and debt are too small. We need more federal government spending to put America back to work. Even if btthomas was correct--which he is not--it is immoral to take food away from hungry people to protect the rich from higher taxes. That said, taxes are too high and government spending is too low. We need more aggregate demand.

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