53 posts categorized "Farm Bill"
At Bread for the World's 2013 National Gathering in Washington, D.C., participants wrote letters to Congress, urging members to to protect programs that alleviate hunger (Joe Molieri/Bread for the World).
“We know exactly what works in fighting hunger, and America has been doing precisely the reverse. We know that creating living-wage jobs and ensuring an adequate safety net will end hunger in America, as it has in much of the rest of the Western developed industrialized world. And yet we are killing all programs to create new jobs and we are cutting back on the food stamps — the SNAP program — even though it reduces hunger and aids the economy.”
— Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, on the Nov.7, edition of The Takeaway radio show. Listen to the full story, “Annual Feast Is A Reminder of America’s Hungry," below.
As we join together with families and friends today, many of our neighbors will be facing a leaner Thanksgiving because of cuts to the SNAP program (formerly food stamps) that took effect Nov. 1. Remember people who are hungry around the world by praying this prayer: “God, empower us and inspire our leaders to fill the hungry with good things.”
Although Congress is not in session today, you can still email your representative and senators over the holiday. Take a moment to tell your members of Congress to fill the hungry with good things as they continue to negotiate funding levels for the SNAP program as part of the farm bill. With a proposal to cut the program by nearly $40 billion being debated, faithful advocates must speak up to ensure that everyone has a place at the table.
USAID photo of beneficiaries of U.S. food aid in Tacloban City in the Philippines (photo courtesy of USAID: IOM/J. Lowry).
It took only a moment for Typhoon Haiyan to destroy any semblance of normal life when it pummeled the Philippines on Nov. 8, leaving hunger and loss in its wake. Those who survived the storm now face an uncertain future.
American generosity and compassion shine in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters, but what happens when the cameras are aimed elsewhere? What happens when the global shock wears off, but hunger remains? Do U.S. food aid policies address long-term solutions to rebuild lives and address hunger? Passing needed reforms in the farm bill would allow U.S. food aid to better assist those in need for extended periods of time.
Being yesterday's news is something displaced Filipino families worry about. "What will happen to us when this kindness ends?" Maribel Villajos, a woman who fled a ravaged Tacloban City in the wake of the typhoon, asked one reporter. Villajos, a mother of three, made her way to Manila, and found temporary shelter and food aid there, but she worries about the future.
As infrastructure in the Philippines is rebuilt, the Villajos family, and other survivors of Haiyan, will need continued assistance.
Since the 1950s, when the United States began the international food aid program, billions of lives have been saved, but policies that dictate how aid is delivered are inefficient and outdated. Using aid dollars to buy food locally is one way to rebuild economies and help farmers rebound by marketing their produce. But since the U.S. Agency for International Development(USAID) has exhausted the bulk of its allotment for such local and regional purchase (LRP), most additional food sent to the Philippines will be shipped from the United States.
Increasing the option to buy food locally, and address both hunger and nutrition, could be an important part of the post-disaster reconstruction in the Philippines—especially with 1.5 million children at risk of acute malnutrition. In a New York Times report, Eric Munoz, a policy analyst with Oxfam International, cautions that without reforms, food aid can destabilize local economies, undercut farmers, and make recovery that much more difficult. Common sense fixes would give USAID experts the flexibility to match resources to the best local solutions.
And while the United States acts quickly to respond to natural and humanitarian disasters in the world, reforms could make our government's response time even faster, and decrease the cost of emergency food aid.
Some U.S.-donated rice has already reached the Philippines, because of prepositioned emergency aid, which was put in place in Sri Lanka before the disaster. Additionally, an LRP pilot program (included in the 2008 farm bill) that has allowed for a small amount of food aid to be purchased locally has been essential in helping hungry survivors. But, by law, most U.S. food aid consists of commoditized crops that are shipped from this country on U.S.-owned vessels. A “rush” shipment of rice to the Philippines from the United States would not arrive until late January or early February. In the face of debilitating hunger, that is too long to wait.
The profound loss in the wake of a disaster like Haiyan is heartbreaking, but our collective willingness to help in the face of tragedy speaks volumes about human compassion. Asking our senators and representatives to ensure that U.S. food aid is used as effectively as possible must be part of our compassionate response. As Congress negotiates a new farm bill, they need to hear from you that food aid must be reformed.
Hunger won’t wait, and neither should help.
Many local newspapers have recently published op-eds written by food bank representatives, all of them with a clear message to Congress: if legislators cut nutrition assistance, charity cannot fill the hunger gap.
Many Christians and others are generous in supporting food banks, but with the needs of struggling families they are anticipating, the food banks simply cannot ramp up their assistance quickly enough and will never have the capacity to fill the gap that Congress has created.
Paul Ash, executive director of the San Francisco and Marin Food Banks, talks about a potential $40 billion cut to SNAP (food stamps) in his op-ed "Food Banks can't make up for food stamp benefit cuts," published Nov. 17, 2013, in SF Gate. "[W]e can raise our voice in protest now, or prepare to watch our neighbors go without enough to eat," he writes.
"It's easy to pass off what goes on in Washington as senseless, unwise, irrational, or out of our control," Ash continues. "But it's more useful to be shouting as loud as we can – through our representatives, to the conferees who will cast the votes, and to the White House – that this is not acceptable."
Ash notes in the op-ed that the Nov. 1 SNAP cuts, combined with the $40 billion in proposed cuts in the House version of the farm bill, would mean that every food bank in the nation would have to double the amount of assistance they provide in order to meet demand. Donors, Ash notes, have shown no signs that they would be willing to double their giving, which would leave food banks unable to provide food to people in need of emergency aid.
The next few weeks are critical as members of the farm bill conference committee negotiate a final bill. The cuts that have already taken place have made it more difficult for already-struggling families to put food on the table. As food prices increase and benefits decrease, more families will likely find themselves in need of charitable food donations earlier in the month — but cuts to nutrition assistance will leave a hunger gap that cannot be closed by churches, pantries, or food banks.
Each time a food bank representative speaks out in local papers, which members of Congress read, faithful advocates have an opportunity to amplify that message. When you see such articles, we urge you to write a letter to the editor. Contact your regional organizer if you need assistance or talking points.
With 49 million Americans at risk of hunger, and more than 1 billion people around the world living in extreme poverty, now is the time to raise your voice in protest. SNAP and international food aid programs must be protected in the farm bill. Email or call your member of Congress at 800-826-3688 today.
Photo: A food bank in Alexandria, Va., provides emergency food assistance (Rick Reinhard).
As we move toward the end of the year, members of Congress have many important decisions before them. Legislators will be dealing with the farm bill, immigration reform, sequestration and ongoing gridlock over the budget. The choices our legislators make now will affect people struggling with hunger for years to come.
Budget and Sequestration
On Oct. 16,Congress passed a bill that ended a 16-day government shutdown and raised the debt ceiling to avoid a U.S. default. The deal funds the government at current levels through Jan. 15, 2014, and raises the debt ceiling through Feb. 7, 2014. The deal also created a conference committee to negotiate a budget for the remainder of the 2014 fiscal year and address the automatic cuts of sequestration. The committee, which holds its next hearings on Nov. 13, has until Dec. 13 to emerge with a deal.
These budget talks could play out in a couple of ways. The committee could emerge with a big, multi-trillion dollar, decade-long budget deal and succeed where all previous attempts have failed. However, members of Congress have said they don’t expect a big deal to emerge.
Alternatively, the committee could come up with a smaller deal that resolves the overall funding level for FY 2014 and replaces some or all of the sequester for one, or even two, years. If this happens, there are two issues to watch: the overall funding level and the makeup of any package that replaces sequestration. The size of the budget they agree on will determine the amount of funding available for all anti-hunger discretionary programs. If the committee agrees on a plan to replace sequestration, we will be focused on whether it includes revenues and protects important anti-poverty programs.
Finally, the committee could emerge with no deal. At that point, Congress will have until Jan. 15 to prevent another shutdown and potentially address sequestration.
We must continue to urge members of Congress to pass a moral budget that adequately funds programs that combat hunger and poverty, and replace sequestration with a balanced plan that includes revenues and smart spending cuts that won’t increase poverty.
Farm Bill and Food Aid
Members of the House and Senate have begun negotiating a farm bill to renew our nation’s agriculture and nutrition policies.
Last month, the congressional conference committee on the farm bill met for the first time to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The Senate version cuts $4 billion from SNAP over 10 years, while the House’s nutrition-only version cuts $39 billion. Any cuts to SNAP would make it more difficult for struggling families to put food on the table. Still, SNAP isn’t the only point of contention.
The farm bill conferees will also negotiate agricultural provisions, including food aid reform. The Senate passed provisions in its farm bill for more effective and efficient food aid policy that would allow U.S. food aid to reach more hungry people with better, more nutritious food. While an amendment to include similar provisions in the House version failed to pass, a bipartisan letter signed by 53 members of the House was recently sent to farm bill conferees supporting Senate-passed provisions in the bill.
In the coming months, we will ask our members with senators and representatives who sit on the conference committee to ask them to ensure that hungry people aren’t harmed in any final farm bill.
Bread for the World and its partners are working to ensure that House leadership puts a vote on immigration reform on the 2013 calendar. The Evangelical Immigration Table, of which Bread is a member, recently released a letter urging the House to continue working on immigration and take up reform that includes a pathway to legalization or citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Bread for the World will continue to ask members of Congress to come to agreement on these issues while also protecting programs that help people suffering from hunger.
Today, as we observe Veterans Day and recognize those who served in the U.S. military, some veterans may be spending the day wondering where their next meal will come from.
This year, Veterans Day comes a little more than a week after an $11 billion cut in food stamp benefits went into effect. Millions of Americans, including many veterans, will see their grocery budgets shrink because of this change.
According to Census figures, roughly 900,000 veterans, in any given month, lived in households that relied on SNAP in 2011. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in a recent study on how the Nov. 1 cut will impact veterans , found that thousands of vets in every state will be affected. "For low-income veterans, who may be unemployed, working in low-wage jobs, or disabled, SNAP provides an essential support that enables them to purchase nutritious food for their families," the study found.
Philadelphia vet Bill Olsson recently told a local TV station that he is one of the 59,300 veterans in Pennsylvania who relies on SNAP, and that the Nov. 1 cut affects his ability to buy enough groceries to feed himself. "I have no income, and then no food stamps, how am I supposed to live?" Olsson said in an interview with KYW-TV. "Elderly people like myself have worked their whole life, and now can’t work, and depend on food stamps."
Congress is currently negotiating the farm bill, which will impact SNAP and other vital anti-hunger programs. Additional cuts to SNAP would make it even more difficult for millions of Americans, and thousands of veterans like Olsson, to eat.
Florida resident and Vietnam veteran Charles Boykin says, in the clip above, that he can't understand why legislators would do anything to reduce his SNAP allotment. "Why take it away from us?" he asks of Congress. "We were there for them, why can't they be there for us?"
Forty-nine million Americans live at risk of hunger — SNAP must be protected in the farm bill. Email your members of Congress now and tell them that any final farm bill must not increase hunger.
Only the current Congress would allow cuts to critical anti-hunger programs, taking food away from parents struggling in this economy to put food on the table for their kids. Last Friday — on the first day of a month in which we celebrate bounty with a national feast—all families receiving SNAP (formerly food stamps) saw their benefits cut. The average family of four lost up to $36 a month.
This $11 billion cut over four years equals nearly 10 million meals each day. That's 80 million meals eliminated since the SNAP cut went into effect last Friday! This is as if nearly all of the residents of the states of California, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Colorado did not eat for a day. And some in Congress are pushing for far more extreme cuts to SNAP.
As we move toward Thanksgiving and Christmas and prepare to gather with friends and family around big meals and parties with lots of food, we know you will be making many trips to the grocery store. We encourage you to use your trips to the store as an occasion to give thanks to God for our bounty and as a reminder to take action on behalf of those who have experienced SNAP cuts. We invite you to say this prayer every time you visit the grocery store this season: God, empower us and our leaders to fill the hungry with good things.
In the coming weeks, as the number of eliminated meals from SNAP cuts grows, we will call upon you to continue saying this prayer as you buy food and share this message with your members of Congress.
Right now, Congress is debating whether to allow cuts to nutrition assistance for low-income women and children to continue under sequestration. Already, struggling seniors have had to go without 4 million meals because of cuts to the Meals on Wheels program, and if sequestration continues, another 4 million meals could be cut.
We can make a difference this fall, but there’s not much time. Congress has just a few weeks to reverse the harmful cuts put in place by sequestration and to pass a farm bill. And these cuts threaten so much more—funding for international emergency food aid, poverty-focused foreign assistance, nutrition assistance for struggling seniors and pregnant women, and Head Start for low-income children.
Tell your members of Congress that all should share in the bounty and they must not cut programs that help struggling families.
Thank you for your continued prayers and action during this critical time.
Eric Mitchell is Bread for the World's director of government relations.
Photo: Alex Morris feeds her son, André, in their Bend, OR, home. Alex depends on SNAP, WIC and other programs to care for André, who suffers from a serious medical condition that affects his hormonal system (Brad Horn).
We will be calling on you during the coming months to protect SNAP and food-aid reform, help end the sequester, and advance immigration reform. Photo: Lobby day activists (Jim Stipe for Bread for the World).
The Oct. 16 budget deal in Congress re-opened the government and raised the debt ceiling for a few months longer. This deal and new deadlines have set off an intense period in which Bread for the World will have to work extremely hard to protect funding for programs that address hunger and help people move out of poverty in the U.S. and around the world.
From now through January, Bread for the World’s primary focus will be on three legislative priorities:
- Protecting SNAP and international food-aid reform during the final negotiations on the farm bill
- Advocating for a 2014 budget agreement that ends the sequester and provides revenues
- Advancing comprehensive immigration reform
Last week, some parts of this busy fall and winter legislative agenda got underway. Congress' budget conference committee held an organizing meeting and its first public meeting, and the farm bill conference committee held its first public meeting. Meanwhile, on Nov. 1, $11 billion in food stamp (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) cuts went into effect.We will need your help in order to achieve our legislative priorities, especially since the timing that these issues will be dealt with is tight. Here are key dates to note:
- 13: Budget conference committee holds its second public meeting
- 25: Bread for the World Institute releases its 2014 Hunger Report: Ending Hunger in America
- 13: Deadline for the budget conference committee to reach an agreement
- 1: Certain effects of expired farm bill begin (milk prices, etc.)
- 15: Continuing resolution for federal budget expires. Congress must pass a spending bill to prevent another government shutdown.
- 7: Debt-ceiling extension expires. Treasury Department begins using extraordinary measures to prevent default.
March 2014 or later
- Treasury Department exhausts all extraordinary measures, and Congress must raise the debt ceiling to prevent a default.
Throughout this intense period, we will be calling on you again and again to help urge your members of Congress to advance our legislative priorities. Thank you for your commitment to ending hunger and for going with us into these busy few months.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).
The farm bill and 2014 budget conference committees continue to meet, and we continue to ask Bread for the World advocates to keep calling and writing their members of Congress. At stake in these negotiations is more than making columns of numbers balance; at stake is the funding for nutrition programs that allow Alli Morris of Bend, Oregon, the opportunity to move on and move up.
The story of Alli and her infant son Andre, told in the video above, shows that nutrition programs are a hand up. The Bend community takes advantage of federal programs to care for those who experience need in their midst. SNAP (formerly food stamps) is the life preserver Alli needs as she makes her way to solid ground. WIC provides the nutrition baby Andre needs to fight a pituitary disease he was born with.
The decisions made by Congress in the next two months must prioritize nutrition programs like SNAP and WIC that value both Alli and Andre's health and future. Some proposals, if enacted, would mean both programs might not be there for another family and community that need them. The automatic cuts called sequestration are chipping away at WIC funding. SNAP, a program that so many Americans have seen as a blessing during the recession and slow recovery, is at risk of being slashed by nearly $40 billion.
Alli and Andre's story reminds us that even if life throws us a few curve balls, there is always hope. Most of us have experienced hardship and can probably recall what it took to overcome difficulty, but not everyone has the same access to a helping hand. Alli insists that she can make a better life for herself and Andre. Her hard work is the essence of the American dream. This family has a chance because there is a community with the tools they need to provide an opportunity for Alli's commitment to take responsibility for her family's future.
It may be easy for members of Congress, sitting at a conference table in Washington, D.C., with reams of paper in front of them, to focus on the columns of dollar figures without seeing that a family's hope is a line item they may cut. It's might be easy for Congress to forget that programs like WIC and SNAP help communities thrive as we care for one another. But it won't be easy if the people the members of Congress represent tell them to prioritize hope. Perhaps you have a story to remind them that hardship can be overcome with the right tools and opportunities. SNAP and WIC are not just programs of hope, but ladders to move lives on and up.
Bread for the World continues to urge Congress to make simple reforms to food aid, and our efforts are apparent in farm bill negotiations. Over the years, U.S. generosity and compassion have saved billions of lives, and right now we have an opportunity to make this valuable assistance even better.
A conference committee began negotiations this week to merge House and Senate versions of the farm bill. The Senate version includes common-sense reforms that include allowing food to be purchased in or near the community in need. Language in the bill also grants more flexibility to purchase food aid products with better nutritional quality, which will help target the most vulnerable populations, such as women and children. Locally purchased food builds economies and helps farmers, which in turn helps stabilize regions and allows them to build defenses against future emergencies. These reforms function as a hand up, not a hand out, and are an essential part of a long-term solution to ending hunger.
Currently, the majority of food aid products provided by the United States must come from this country and be shipped on U.S. vessels. As Bread for the World notes in a new fact sheet on international food aid reform, this practice can add to program costs and delay arrival of food aid, when compared to local purchases. Another current practice, monetization–purchasing U.S. commodities for resale in local markets to fund development projects–meant 800,000 people could have, but did not, receive aid in 2012.
Two lawmakers in the House are leading the charge to modernize U.S. food aid: Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.-39) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.-16), and both are on the conference committee. An amendment they authored was narrowly defeated in a House farm bill, but they continue to work toward inclusion of food aid reform in the final bill.
In a statement submitted to the conference committee, Royce encouraged policy change that includes the flexibility to address each unique situation and eliminate monetization. “In fact, “ he wrote, “if we eliminated the requirement to monetize and provided just 20 percent in flexible funding, we could generate over $500 million in efficiency savings, reduce mandatory spending by $50 million, and reach millions more people in need during the life of this bill.”
In a guest contribution to Politico yesterday, Engel pointed out that food aid policies have stagnated since 1954, and must to catch up to modern needs. He saw firsthand the effect our current law has had on Haiti, and his experience supports the need for reform. “I’ve seen how the well-intentioned sale of American rice has driven local rice farmers out of business, making it harder for Haitians to feed themselves," he wrote.
It’s time for international food aid to respond to the realities of today’s world. Call or email your member of Congress today and tell them to protect hungry people in the farm bill.
In November, many struggling Americans will find it even more difficult to put food on the table as they face the expiration of a temporary increase in food stamp benefits. Congress is negotiating a farm bill that would make even deeper cuts to the vital nutrition assistance program (movie still from A Place at the Table, courtesy of Participant Media).
This week brings Halloween and the arrival of November. The fall season includes a number of holidays that center on food for Americans. But for many people, Friday will bring new hardship and worry. On Nov. 1, a temporary increase in food stamp benefits will expire, making it more difficult for 47 million people to put food on the table. A family of four could see its benefit decrease by as much as $36 per month.
“Thirty-six dollars a month may not seem like much, but if you are a family of four with an income of $22,000 per year, $36 means several missed meals or increased difficulty in providing for one's children,” writes Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, in a piece on the Huffington Post Politics Blog. “And if this $11 billion reduction isn't devastating enough, members of the House and Senate have begun to finalize a farm bill that will impact vital anti-hunger programs.”
Today, 41 lawmakers will meet with the goal of merging two versions of the farm bill—one that proposes a nearly $40 billion cut to SNAP over 10 years, and another that includes a $4.1 billion cut. If any of your members of Congress are sitting at the negotiating table, you have an opportunity to influence their decisions and urge them to protect the nation’s number-one defense against hunger from deeper cuts. As food prices increase and benefits decrease, more families will likely find themselves in need of charitable food donations earlier in the month, but any cuts to nutrition assistance will leave a hunger gap that cannot be closed by churches, pantries, or food banks.
The staff and volunteers at Oregon Food Bank are concerned about cuts to SNAP and made sure that one member at the conference table–Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.)–knows they can’t fill the gap. In a recent op-ed, Oregon Food Bank CEO Susannah Morgan and board member Lisa Sedlar point out that deep cuts to food stamps would increase hunger for 100,000 Oregonians. "[T]he total meals lost in Oregon would be equivalent to the entire statewide food bank network shutting its doors for more than five years," they write in the article.
It's also important to remember that there are real people behind these cuts. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Floridian Robin Petersen, who works full time, can't afford to put enough food on her family’s table without nutrition benefits. “If I didn't get food stamps, we'd be at the food pantries every week," Peterson says in the piece. In the same article, hunger relief organization Second Harvest reports that food distribution in the area has already increased by 34 percent in the last six months.
In addition to debating cuts to food stamps, members of the committee must also make choices about international food aid. Beckmann says we must hold members of Congress accountable for their actions. “Any policies that create additional poverty among the working poor, or further impoverish hungry people around the world, are reprehensible,” Beckmann wrote in the Huffington Post piece.
On Friday, the first day of a month in which we celebrate bounty with a national feast, it is disheartening to think that some Americans will be have much less food on their tables when they gather to give thanks this year.