Farm Bill: Now What?
By Christine Meléndez Ashley
Last Thursday was not a good day. After months of faithful advocacy against deep cuts to SNAP – in district meetings, local media, more than 7,000 emails and hundreds of phone calls to Congress – the House narrowly passed a bill cutting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) by $40 billion. Emotions felt by faithful anti-hunger advocates likely mirrored my own. Defeat. Sorrow. Outrage. A sense of loss and disappointment, along with the question, “Now what?” hanging over my head.
But I woke up Friday morning with Psalm 108 on my heart, a psalm we had read in the office shortly before the vote on Thursday afternoon:
My heart is steadfast, O God! For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. [Psalm 108:1, 4 ESV]
What originally was a prayer for victory became a prayer of comfort to me. Regardless of the wins or losses on Capitol Hill, we stand steadfast, remembering that God is, God has been, and God will continue to be faithful. We may not have won on this bill, but this isn’t the end of the line in our advocacy for a strong SNAP program. With this psalm buoying my spirit, I look forward to the work that needs to be done.
Now that the Senate and the House have each passed a version of the farm bill, it’s time for a conference committee to come together and iron out the differences between the policies passed by each chamber. The Senate previously passed a bill with $4 billion in SNAP cuts. Obviously, it will be a tough negotiation to protect SNAP.
The farm bill technically expires on Monday, September 30, but it is almost certain we will not have a final bill by then. Historically, farm bills have been allowed to expire for a couple months before a final bill has been passed. This will likely be the case again this year. SNAP is a unique farm bill program in that it can continue past the September 30 deadline as long as the government is open and functioning. This gives us as advocates the time we need to make sure our message is heard loud, clear, and often: SNAP must be protected in any final farm bill.
As Congress works out the parliamentary and procedural details of how to move forward, we continue to press on in our faithful advocacy. Now is a critical time to let your representatives know you were watching how they voted. Call 1-800-826-3688 and express your thanks or your frustration and outrage at their vote. Our calls today could mean a difference in how representatives vote on SNAP cuts in the future!
The nutrition bill passed but it was a very close vote. Threats to SNAP will continue to come up this fall but victory - protecting SNAP - is within our reach. Stand steadfast and stay tuned for updates from us in the coming weeks.
Christine Meléndez Ashley is a policy analyst at Bread for the World.
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