Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

59 posts categorized "Farm Bill"

Quote of the Day: David Brooks

“[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)

God, Grip Our Hearts

July 2013 Newsletter

(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 society.”

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.]

We Only Need $25 From 68 People by Midnight

Smiling kid

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.

Action Needed: House Farm Bill Vote Today

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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 cutsand 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.  

Bread 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.

Farm-bill-spending blog

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.

Policy Focus: The Budget Stalemate Continues in Congress

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[This piece originally appeared in Bread for the World's July-August e-newletter.]

Immigration Reform

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.

Farm Bill

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.

Appropriations

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.

How Advocacy Helped Prevent the Passage of a Bad Farm Bill

 

The 2013 Farm Bill from Bread for the World on Vimeo.

On June 20, 2013, the House of Representatives brought a farm bill to the floor for a vote, but failed to pass the legislation. This was the first time that a farm bill has ever failed in the House. The bill included more than $20 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and $2.5 billion in cuts to international food aid.

"The fact that we were able to speak out and the bill failed is a victory for hungry people in the United States and around the world," says Bread for the World policy analyst Christine Ashley in the short video above. "It sends a message to Congress that these kinds of cuts can’t stand."

"If we really want to end hunger, then you’ve also got to weigh in on laws and structures that affect hungry people," says Bread for the World President David Beckmann in the clip. "The farm bill is a clear example of this."

Stay tuned to the Bread Blog for updates and action alerts related to the farm bill.

Thank You, Faithful Advocates! House Farm Bill that Cuts SNAP Fails to Pass

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Bread for the World advocates during a workshop at the 2013 National Gathering, held June 8-11 in Washington, D.C.

Advocacy requires patience and, like the exodus from Egypt, the exodus from hunger takes struggle, perseverance, prayer, and faith. Our biblical tradition has aptly prepared Christian anti-hunger advocates for this work. Today, faithful advocacy paid off!

With two days of heated debate on the House floor, it was not clear that the chamber’s farm bill—which included $20.5 billion in cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps) and $2.5 billion in cuts to food aid—would fail. Two amendments that would have restored the funding failed yesterday and several harmful proposals that would have increased hunger passed. But there was always hope.

Like David picking up the rock as he faced impossible odds against Goliath, anti-hunger advocates picked up phones, sent emails, and used social media to send the same powerful message to Congress: everyone deserves a place at the table.

Bread for the World strongly urged a “no” vote on any farm bill that included cuts to programs that help hungry and poor people. The House farm bill failed passage today, with a final vote of 195 yays and 234 nays. (To see how your representative voted, click here). 

This is a great victory, but there is still much work to be done. As congressional leaders decide how to move forward, we will make sure that our members are equipped with the information they need in order to remain vigilant. Some options for moving forward include sending the House farm bill back to the agriculture committee for changes, another short- or long-term extension of the farm bill (the bill we are functioning under expires Sept. 30), or leadership may choose to vote on the Senate bill. 

Beyond the farm bill, work on immigration, the budget, and replacing sequestration will take center stage. The fearless and faithful advocacy it takes to say “no” in the face of those who may seem bigger and stronger will be needed again and again.

Like David who faced the Philistine not with a sword, but with faith and courage, faithful advocates will again be challenged, but we can continue to overcome great obstacles. Thank you to everyone who used his or her voice and made a difference today.

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Your support and involvement made it possible for Bread for the World to fight cuts to SNAP and food aid. You can help keep that momentum going by joining our summer effort to help hungry people and making a gift to Bread 

Important House Farm Bill Amendments to Watch

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Updated, 6:15 a.m., 11:34 a.m., 1:23 p.m. 6/20/13

Debate on the House farm bill began today, with a final vote expected in the next week. The representatives will consider as many as 103 amendments, some of which could increase hunger, and others that would help hungry people. Below is a rundown of some of the key amendments Bread for the World will be closely monitoring. Ultimately, we are pushing for “no” votes on any final legislation that cuts SNAP (formerly food stamps) or food aid. Even if you have already done so, please call your representative at 1-800-326-4941 or send an email today.

The SNAP cuts included in the House bill could kick at least 2 million people off of the program, reduce benefits for more than 800,000 families, and leave 210,000 children without free school meals. Cuts to food aid programs could cost lives and hinder the ability of the United States to effectively reach millions of people in need. These cuts must not stand.

Amendments Bread for the World Supports

  • McGovern Amendment (No.1): Restores the $20.5 billion in SNAP cuts included in the House bill by cutting commodity programs and crop insurance payments.  Bread for the World strongly supports. Amendment No. 1 to restore SNAP funding failed in a recorded vote of 188 yays and 234 nays. To see how your representative voted, click here
  • Royce-Engel Amendment (No. 15): Includes common-sense reforms providing much needed flexibility in the Food for Peace program. Will help the United States reach an additional 4 million disaster victims through overseas food assistance without spending any additional U.S. taxpayer dollars. Bread for the World strongly supports. Amendment No. 15 to reform food aid narrowly failed in a recorded vote of 203 yays and 220 nays. To see how your representative voted, click here.
  • Duckworth Amendment (No. 68): Requires USDA to conduct a study and report back to Congress its findings on the impact of SNAP cuts on demand for charitable food services. Amendment No. 68 adopted in a bloc-voice vote. 

Amendments Bread for the World Opposes

A number of harmful amendments have been submitted that would reduce benefits or make access to the SNAP program more difficult for qualifying participants.

  • Conaway Amendment (No.23): Creates a provision in the SNAP program that would reduce benefits to qualifying participants by 10 percent if Congress fails to pass a farm bill. Amendment No. 23 rejected by voice vote, and withdrawn from recorded vote by Rep. Conaway.
  • Kingston, Westmoreland, Austin, and Scott Amendment (No. 24):  Repeals the SNAP benefit boost enacted in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This benefit boost is set to expire in November.
  • Huelskamp, Goodlatte, Neugebauer, Jordon, DeSantis, Stewart, and Chris Amendment(No. 101): Cuts SNAP funding by $31 billion and also eliminates programs such as SNAP nutrition education and job training, which help participants transition out of poverty. Although the SNAP program has existing work requirements, this amendment imposes additional requirements, making it more difficult for qualifying participants to access the safety-net program when they need it. Amendment 101 adopted in a vote of 175 yays and 250 nays. 
  • Southerland, Westmoreland, Kingston, Bentivolio, and Schweikert Amendment (No. 102):  Creates a state option that allow states to change their SNAP work requirements to match stricter federal welfare work requirements and financially incentivizes states to reduce SNAP caseload by providing states funding based on how much they reduce caseload. Amendment 102 failed in a vote of 227 yays and 198 nays.
  • Reed Amendment (No.103): Ex-offenders who have committed a set of specific violent crimes would be permanently banned from ever receiving SNAP. Amendment No. 103 adopted in a bloc-voice vote.

We will update this blog post as each amendment receives a vote over the next few days.

Act Now: House Voting on Cuts to SNAP and Food Aid

 'US Capitol' photo (c) 2007, Navin75 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Update: 6/19/13

We expect two amendments to be considered and voted on today that Bread for the World strongly supports.  Please urge your representative to

1. Vote against any cuts to SNAP and vote for Rep. McGovern’s amendment to restore SNAP funding. The SNAP cuts included in the bill could kick at least 2 million people off of the program, reduce benefits for more than 800,000 families, and leave 210,000 children without free school meals.

2. Oppose cuts to food aid and vote for the bipartisan Royce-Engel amendment to make food aid more efficient. The amendment will feed at least 4 million more people at no additional cost to taxpayers by making the food aid system more flexible and efficient.

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By Eric Mitchell

This week, the House of Representatives is considering a farm bill that includes more than $20 billion in cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps) and $2.5 billion in cuts to international food aid programs. Numerous harmful amendments submitted to the bill threaten to cut SNAP further or make dangerous changes to the way the program works.

Your representative needs to hear from you today.

The SNAP cuts included in the bill could kick at least 2 million people off of the program, reduce benefits for more than 800,000 families, and leave 210,000 children without free school meals. Cuts to food aid programs could cost lives and hinder the ability of the United States to effectively reach millions of people in need. These cuts must not stand.

Call your representative today and urge him or her to vote against a farm bill that includes cuts to SNAP or international food aid. Tell your representative that you

  1. Oppose any cuts to SNAP and support efforts to restore funding to the program, and
  2. Oppose cuts to food aid and support efforts to make the program more efficient.
The next 48 hours are critical as the House of Representatives moves to vote on the farm bill. Call your representative at 1-800-326-4941 or send an email today.

Thank you for continuing to use your voice to help ensure a place at the table for all God’s people.

Eric Mitchell is Bread for the World's director of government relations. 

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