Farm Bill Passes House: Thank You for Your Advocacy
Photo: DeEtte Peck uses her EBT card to purchase food in Portland, Ore. (Brian Duss)
By David Beckmann
I want to thank you for your faithful advocacy to protect SNAP (formerly food stamps) and to improve U.S. food aid in the farm bill.
Nearly three years after starting our work on this bill, Congress is on the verge of passing The Agricultural Act of 2014 — a final, five-year authorization of food and farm programs. While the bill includes important reforms to food aid, it also cuts the SNAP program by more than $8 billion.
These cuts are extremely disappointing, but your advocacy was critical in ensuring that millions of people were not kicked off the program. The House passed the compromise bill on Wednesday, and the Senate is expected to pass it on Monday.
The bill is far from perfect, but your faithfulness in sending more than 39,000 emails and making 5,900 calls to Congress last year alone made a big difference. Here’s a brief summary of what is important in the bill:
- U.S. food aid. There are positive reforms to food-aid programs that make them more efficient, enabling the greatest impact possible while improving food-aid quality and nutrition. This includes increased cash flexibility for development programs and establishing a permanent local and regional procurement (LRP) program with funding up to $80 million a year.
- SNAP. The bill includes an $8.6 billion benefit cut. Though less than the $40 billion in cuts proposed in 2013, this cut comes a time when many families are struggling to make ends meet. It will not kick current beneficiaries from the program, but it will cut benefits for approximately 850,000 households in 15 states—California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin—and the District of Columbia, just months after every SNAP household in the country saw its monthly allotments reduced.
As important as what was included in the bill is what was not included. Harmful SNAP policy changes that would have kicked millions off the program, banned convicted felons for life, punished people for not finding work in a tough economy, and allowed states to drug test every applicant were virtually eliminated. There are also no cuts to food aid or food-aid quality programs.
While the lack of these harmful changes and the food-aid reforms are a huge victory for people who are hungry, the SNAP cuts will be a significant blow to the 850,000 households that will lose about $90 a month in benefits at a time when hunger in America remains at an all-time high. Any cut to SNAP is harmful.
Congress must not forget that many families are still struggling — unemployment remains high, and programs that support hungry and poor people are at risk of greater cuts. Your voice and your advocacy continue to be critical in protecting hungry people from cuts.
Without your advocacy, the farm bill would not have included key first steps for food-aid reforms and would have cut SNAP much deeper. I am confident your voices and your continued faith will continue to have an impact in the coming debates.
David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Farm Bill Passes House: Thank You for Your Advocacy:
Get updates on issues and actions to take on behalf of hungry people.