53 posts categorized "Farm Bill"
By Robin Stephenson
The lights have dimmed on the golden years for 8.8 million U.S. seniors who are facing hunger. The State of Senior Hunger in America 2011: An Annual Report, which was published in August, shows a disturbing trend—increasing rates of food insecurity for elderly citizens. From 2007 to 2011, the height of the Great Recession, the number of seniors experiencing the threat of hunger increased by 42 percent.
One of those seniors is Gloria, a Washington resident in her early 70s. In 2009, she was laid off from her job at a local hotel. After she went through her modest savings and was still unable to find work, getting enough food became a struggle. With the help of an emergency food box program and family support, she made it through—not to the idyllic life of leisure that is the promise of old age in this country, but to a more secure financial state.
“It’s almost impossible when you are older to get a job," Gloria says. "It’s a constant worry if you are going to make it through or you have to go bother one of your kids and live with them. I know a lot of seniors who feel that way. I’ve heard my friends say they don’t think the government cares about us.”
Gloria’s story is all too common; she is grateful to have recently found a part-time minimum wage job in the rural Washington community where she has lived most of her life. Social security provides her with a meager $800 per month—barely enough to keep food on the table and cover her bills.
The bulk of her working life was spent in the fruit industry—the sort of blue-collar employment that is a mainstay of rural economies. “The packing shed didn’t have a 401K,” she notes. “For most women in rural areas, there are not jobs that provide them with a retirement plan.
“You pay into the system when you work, but a dollar doesn’t go as far now," Gloria continues. "At this point in time, with the cost of living, the price of gas, I can’t see that I can retire.”
The report prepared for the National Council to End Senior Hunger concludes with a warning that mounting food insecurity in an aging population will lead to additional public health costs. To stem growing health care expenditures requires reducing food insecurity for older Americans.
For the elderly, health care and medicine are often their largest out-of-pocket expenses. Working helps Gloria afford supplemental insurance to augment her Medicare—for now.
As members of Congress return from recess, decisions that they will make could have dire consequences for the nearly one in six food insecure seniors. Unless sequestration is replaced with a balanced approach, it will continue to cut senior nutrition programs, like Meals on Wheels. Proposed cuts to the SNAP program would cast a pall on the golden years of even more senior citizens.
How we treat our elders, most of whom have spent a lifetime contributing to our economy, matters. Seniors will choose to experience their retirement differently, but a Christian response must include setting a context where those years can be spent in fullness and dignity—not in hunger.
Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.
A $20 billion cut to SNAP, the amount proposed in a House farm bill that failed earlier this year, is equivalent to eliminating half of all the charitable food distribution by churches and food banks over a 10-year period. The legislation that is currently being drafted doubles those cuts (Rick Reinhard/Bread for the World).
Last year it was $16 billion, but that wasn’t enough. Earlier this year, the number was $20.5 billion, but even that wasn’t enough. Now, the House of the Representatives has proposed $40 billion in cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps) over 10 years – a horrifying amount that would substantially increase the suffering of the 47 million Americans who depend on SNAP to keep hunger at bay.
The Hill reports that the House is expected to vote on the bill in September after returning from August recess. The proposal is the product of a working group convened by House Majority leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in an effort to attract conservative votes and pass the stand-alone nutrtion title of the farm bill on partisan lines.The farm bill proposed by the House Agriculture Committee earlier this year "would have cut SNAP by $20 billion—which would have kicked 2 million people out of the program, reduced benefits for more than 800,000 families, and left 210,000 children without school meals,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, in a statement released earlier today. In the current bill, the House doubles the number of people hurt. Beckmann calls both proposals "truly cruel and unacceptable."
During a period of continued high unemployment where there is only one job available for every three applicants, this proposal would increase work requirements, meaning that people who want to work and are looking for a job, but haven’t found one, would see their benefits cut –benefits that help feed children. Ninety-nine percent of households receiving SNAP live well below the poverty line and have no room to absorb these cuts in their household budgets.
In the effort to cut benefits, much has been made of the increased participation in the SNAP program. SNAP participation has closely followed poverty and unemployment rates and has responded quickly and effectively to the recession. As the economy recovers, the Congressional Budget Office projects the participation rates will drop to pre-recession levels.
For Christians, feeding the most vulnerable among us is not a partisan issue – it’s a moral call. We know there is enough for everyone. A proposal to cut $40 billion from a program that offers much-needed food to so many is distressing.
"Assuring government’s obligation to advance the common good, ensure fairness, and defend the most vulnerable is good religion and good politics," said Rev. Beckmann. "Massive cuts to SNAP are neither."
This month, members of Congress will travel home to hear from their constituents. What they do upon their return – pass a farm bill that guts food assistance or cut social programs deeper while protecting defense spending – will depend entirely on what they hear from you. If they hear nothing, expect more proposals that, like this one, will hurt hungry and poor people.
To learn more about how you can get involved and specific priorities in your state or district, contact your regional organizer.
Pastor Charlotte Schmiedeskamp of Thompson Falls, Mont., talks about proposed SNAP cuts and sequestration during a visit with her member of Congress during Bread for the World's June 2013 Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. (Robin Stephenson)
July and August offer plenty of opportunities to talk about hunger and poverty with your members of Congress.
Yesterday, during Bread for the World’s monthly grassroots conference call and webinar, members of our policy and organizing staff emphasized that it is important to act now. Director of government relations Eric Mitchell encouraged advocates to take advantage of in-district meetings and town halls during the August recess, a time when members of Congress return to their home districts. “This is the time they need to hear from constituents," Mitchell said. "After August, things will move fast.”
Bread staffers reviewed the last six months and also looked ahead to what may transpire between now and the end of the year. The bottom line: your phone calls make a difference and will continue to be needed.
Noting that the media has largely ignored the effects of sequestration on vulnerable people, Bread policy analyst Amelia Kegan said, “We know if it’s not front page news, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening and isn’t important—if Congress doesn’t hear from you, they won’t think it’s a problem.” Kegan went on to point out that a long-term replacement of the sequester is unlikely at this point, but a short-term fix is still possible this fall, especially as more defense spending cuts take their toll. The question moving forward is how Congress will choose to replace the spending cuts—whether they decide to cut programs like SNAP or taking a balanced approach that includes increased revenues may depend on the pressure that anti-hunger advocates put on their lawmakers.An examination of recent House farm bill activity showed that two wrongs don’t make a right. The first draft of the bill, which included $20.5 billion in cuts to SNAP, failed in a floor vote. The version of the bill that the House passed last week does not include the title that authorizes the SNAP program. SNAP will continue to operate at existing levels under current rules and can still be included in a conference with the Senate farm bill (which cuts the program by $4.1 billion). But, as policy analyst Christine Melendez-Ashley cautioned, the way forward for the nutrition title is not yet clear, and that leaves the SNAP vulnerable to cuts in both the farm bill and the appropriations process.
Staff members also provided an update on the latest threats to international food aid, which delivers emergency assistance to hungry people overseas. House proposals in the farm bill and spending bills would slash the program. The Foreign Assistance Transparency and Accountability Act, introduced in the House by a bi-partisan group of representatives, was also discussed.
Mitchell also stressed that Bread members must put pressure on their representatives to craft a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship. The Senate passed a comprehensive bill late last month, but is in unclear how the House will come up with a comprehensive bill or a piecemeal approach to reform.
The next monthly conference call and webinar will be held on Sept. 17.
—Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), during last week's farm bill debate on the House floor.
Photo: Barbie Izquierdo is a Philadelphia native whose firsthand experiences with hunger and poverty have made her an anti-hunger activist and nationwide speaker on the topic. She lives in Lancaseter, Penn., with her two children, Leylanie and Aidan (pictured). Barbie has worked with Witness to Hunger in Philadelphia and appears in the documentary A Place at the Table. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
“[C]ritics are correct that the number of people on food stamps has exploded. And so I was going to do a column, [writing] 'this is wasteful, it's probably going up the income streams to people who don't really need the food stamps.' And so, this was going to be a great column, would get my readers really mad at me, I would love it, it would be fun.But then I did some research and found out who was actually getting the food stamps. And the people who deserve to get it are getting. That was the basic conclusion I came to. So I think it has expanded. That's true. But that's because the structure of poverty has expanded in the country.”
—New York Times columnist David Brooks, on the July 12, 2013 edition of PBS Newshour, talking about the recently passed House farm bill, which did not include the nutrition title that authorizes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Photo: DeEtte Peck uses her EBT card in Portland, Ore., to purchase food. (Brian Duss)
(Left to right) Amanda Wojcinski, Wynn Horton, Moeun Sun, Aminata Kanu, Rebecca Land, and Robert Mauger, students at Houghton College in upstate New York, navigate Capitol Hill during Lobby Day on June 11, 2013. The students met with their senators and representative and urged them to preserve funding for food assistance in the farm bill. (Eric Bond)
Recently, Rev. Noel Castellanos prayed, “God, when you grip our
hearts we are turned toward our brothers and sisters on the margins of
Rev. Castellanos, chief executive officer of the Christian Community Development Association, offered this invocation as we and our colleagues in the Evangelical Immigration Table gathered for a vigil at the Capitol just before the Senate began voting on the comprehensive immigration bill.
Thanks be to God, our prayers—and your advocacy—worked. The Senate passed its version of the comprehensive immigration reform bill on June 28 with a vote of 68-32. Now we turn to the House of Representatives to see what action it will take. We anticipate a more partisan approach in the House. So we pray that God will grip the hearts of our representatives and bring both parties together to pass immigration reform legislation that will benefit struggling families in our nation.
House Farm Bill Fails
We have another major reason to be thankful to God and to you for your faithful advocacy. On June 21, the House version of the farm bill was voted down, 234-195. Had it become law, it would have meant a $20 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). More than 47 million Americans depend on this vital food assistance program.
When the current farm bill was authorized in 2008, we won the largest increase ever for food assistance. Since then, the nutrition portion of the farm bill has been targeted for cuts. We are thankful that God has gripped the hearts of our representatives, until now, and stayed those cuts.
As you read this, Congress is be preparing to recess for the summer. This means that your members of Congress will be back in your district. I encourage you to visit or call them, referring to their voting record on amendments to the new farm bill and other food and nutrition bills (see Bread for the World's 2013 Midyear Congressional Scorecard). If they voted in favor of hungry people, thank them. If they did not, still thank them for being your public servants, but express disappointment for the way they voted and remind them that you are counting on them to vote on behalf of hungry and poor people.
International Coalition Pledges to Fund Maternal and Child Nutrition
We are also thankful that God has gripped the hearts of President
Barack Obama and other world leaders to increase investments in maternal
and child nutrition in developing countries hardest hit by
malnutrition. Since we started our work on this issue four years ago,
much progress has been made. Last month, at a high-level event in
London, world leaders pledged $21.9 billion for maternal and child
nutrition programs between now and 2020. The United States pledged $10
billion through fiscal year 2014 toward eliminating malnutrition in the
1,000 days between pregnancy and age 2—and it promised to continue
funding nutrition programs at this level beyond 2014.
On June 10, during Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering in Washington, D.C., Bread for the World Institute and Concern Worldwide hosted an international meeting to mark the progress that has been made over the last 1,000 days and to recognize the important role that civil society has played in building the political will to scale up nutrition. The event marked the official launch of the Civil Society Network of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, which will help coordinate the efforts of the 40 SUN countries.
Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, recognized the role that activists— like the Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement— have played in elevating the voices of poor and hungry people as policy makers set priorities. In addition, Bread for the World and partners hosted a congressional briefing on maternal and child nutrition to raise awareness on Capitol Hill about the critical role of U.S. leadership.
After the briefing, Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) introduced a bipartisan resolution to draw attention to the scourge of malnutrition during the critical 1,000-day window.
This will be a busy autumn and winter for Bread, with important advocacy work around sequestration and other budget issues. We will also be finalizing our plans for the next three years—the first triennial plan within the framework of our long-term vision to end hunger. We will be planning our campaigns for 2014 and launching the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America.
As we enjoy the summer, I give thanks to God for your faithful support and for gripping all our hearts to advocate with those whom Jesus calls “the least among us.”
[This piece originally appeared in Bread for the World’s July-August newsletter.]
By David Beckmann
There are fewer than 13 hours until this matching opportunity is over—and we're so close to reaching the full $85,000! Compassionate Bread members like you have already given more than $83,300. Can you donate right now to help us reach the goal by midnight?
If just 68 people give $25, we will reach our goal! Will you be one of the 68 and help right now with whatever you can afford?
We’re fighting hard for programs that help hungry and poor people, and the timing couldn’t be more urgent. Just yesterday, the House passed a farm bill without SNAP, purposely leaving a SNAP-only bill exposed to cuts at astronomical levels! We are pushing back hard, and with your support, we can make a huge difference. Thank you for giving generously.David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.
Late Wednesday, in a last-minute move, House leadership released a farm bill that does not include the nutrition title, which is the section in the bill that includes SNAP (formerly food stamps). The House is expected to vote on the bill early today. Bread for the World strongly opposes this splitting of the farm bill—which leaves nutrition programs such as SNAP vulnerable to deep cuts—and the passage of any farm bill that cuts SNAP and food aid.
In this period of slow economic recovery, more than 47 million of individuals across the United States depend on the SNAP program to put food on their tables.
for the World is urging our members to call their representatives early today
and urge them to vote “no” on this farm bill. Call 1-800-326-4941, ask for your
representative, and leave a message telling him or her that any farm bill that cuts international food aid and leaves nutrition programs vulnerable to deep cuts.
Earlier this year, the Senate passed a bill that included $4.1 billion in cuts to SNAP but included needed improvements to food aid. The House bill that failed passage last month would have slashed SNAP by nearly $21 billion, and international food aid by $2.5 billion (Bread for the World opposed these cuts). Any final bill out of the House must be reconciled with the Senate version in a conference for final passage, and then must be signed by the president.
Vulnerable populations both here and abroad should not pay the price for partisan gridlock in Congress. Splitting the farm bill not only harms a program that has kept millions of struggling families on stable ground during tough economic times, it’s not an economically sound move. 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.
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.
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.
[This piece originally appeared in Bread for the World's July-August e-newletter.]
On June 27, the Senate approved the most far-reaching reforms to U.S. immigration policy in 50 years. The Senate’s immigration reform bill passed 68-32. Bipartisan support gave the proposal momentum even as it faces a more daunting challenge in the House of Representatives. The bill includes most of the major components of an immigration overhaul: an earned legalization process for 11 million unauthorized immigrants, increased enforcement both at the border and inside the United States, and a revamped guest worker program for both low-skill and high-skill sectors.
The Senate bill does not address root causes of undocumented immigration, such as poverty in countries of origin. However, it will reduce hunger and poverty of immigrants in the United States.
The farm bill remains a main focus of our efforts to ensure a place at the table for all people. During this time of slow economic recovery, more than 47 million of individuals across the United States rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is funded through the farm bill.
The current farm bill deadline is this September. As of press time, the Senate has passed a bipartisan farm bill that includes $4 billion in cuts to SNAP and some international food aid improvements. Meanwhile, the House failed to pass a bill that included over $20 billion in cuts to SNAP and $2.5 billion in cuts to international food aid. It is unclear how the farm bill process will move forward. Congress could take a number of routes, from having the House rewrite its bill, to considering the Senate bill on the House floor, to extending the current law.
Although the House bill failed, several amendments that passed during floor considerations are cause for concern. For example, the Southerland Amendment would impose harsh work requirements on all SNAP recipients. The Reed Amendment would ban ex-offenders from receiving SNAP. In addition, some influential lawmakers have recently floated the idea of splitting the farm bill and administering SNAP separately. This appears to be an effort to reduce funding for SNAP—which Bread would oppose.
In May, the Senate passed its discretionary spending allocations for fiscal year 2014, which was drafted with the assumption that the Budget Control Act of 2011—commonly referred to as sequestration—will be replaced and that scheduled cuts will not go into effect next year. The Senate appropriations spending cap is roughly $1 trillion.
In late June, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its agriculture appropriations bill, with healthy funding levels for programs that help hungry people:
- $7 billion for the Women, Infants, Children (WIC) program—$215 million above FY 2013
- $1.46 billion for international food aid—$33 million above FY 2013
- $185 million for McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program—$1 million above FY 2013
The bill also includes modest changes to international food aid. It eliminates approximately 17 percent of monetization—sale of commodities purchased in and shipped from the United States. This change would help support local farmers and markets. The bill also includes an $18 million increase in emergency funds.
Unfortunately, the House is operating under the assumption that sequestration will remain in place—leaving a gap of $10 billion between the Senate and House bills and making it hard to see how legislation will move forward. As of press time, the House has not drafted or passed its agricultural appropriations bill.