Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

191 posts categorized "Foreign Aid"

Recap: July Grassroots Conference Call and Webinar

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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.

Beckmann Testifies Before Congress, Asks for Increased Funding for Nutrition

Khato Rana plays with her daughter Rita, 2, at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Dhangadhi, Nepal. The facility, run by Nepali NGO RUWDUC (Rural Women's Development Unity Center), restores malnourished children back to health. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

The United States has exhibited great leadership in the areas of global development, food security, and nutrition, but more must be done, said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, during testimony given Tuesday before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State/Foreign Operations.

Beckmann asked the committee to continue its bipartisan support for food security, agriculture, and nutrition—especially in the critical period from the start of a woman’s pregnancy through a child’s second birthday, also known as the 1,000-day window of opportunity. High-level political leadership by the U.S. through initiatives such as Feed the Future, the 1,000 Days Partnership, and Child Survival Call to Action has increased awareness of the importance of maternal and child nutrition around the world, but more importantly, spurred other countries to action. But, Beckmann cautioned that such actions must be accompanied by an increase in funding, as well as important reforms to the U.S. foreign aid system, such as more local procurement, a more efficient food aid system, and greater transparency and accountability. He specifically suggested raising U.S. funding for nutrition from $95 million, in the fiscal year 2013 budget, to $200 million in FY 2014.

“The U.S. government has …encouraged the world to use new knowledge about how best to reduce the carnage of child malnutrition,” he said. “We now have clear evidence, for example, that available dollars should go first to improving nutrition in pregnant women, new mothers, and young children in the critical 1,000-day window of opportunity. This will reduce preventable child deaths and lock in the potential of every child by giving them a good start to life.”

Beckmann’s testimony comes at a time when both a shrinking international affairs budget and the series of across-the-board cuts known as sequestration threaten funding for poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA). Many important international nutrition, food security, development, and humanitarian programs fall under the umbrella of PFDA. These programs build secure, healthy, and productive nations at a fiscal cost of less than one percent of the federal budget.  Beckmann cautioned that the sequester, if not replaced with a more balanced plan, will slash $1.1. billion from PFDA this year alone.

“Some cuts kill,” Beckmann said, before explaining that sequestration will deprive 600,000 malnourished children of life-altering and live-saving nutritional assistance, deny 1 million poor farmers of agricultural assistance, and will stop 5 million people from receiving lifesaving medical interventions.

“As a Christian preacher, allow me to say that our nation’s efforts to help reduce hunger, poverty, and disease around the world are important to Almighty God,” Beckmann said. “I’m convinced that God loves me, all of us, and everybody—including the millions of families around the world who struggle to feed their children.”

What Is Worse Than Cancelled White House Tours?

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Infographic courtesy of InterAction

By Nina Keehan

Many Americans have heard that the White House recently cancelled its public tours as a result of budget cuts from the sequester, leaving thousands of eager ticket holders disappointed. This is a bummer—especially if you’re a middle schooler on spring break.

But let's put this in perspective.  While these shuttered tours might get a ton of publicity from the media, they are certainly not the worst the sequester has to offer—not even close.

Some of the cuts will cost lives.

A new infographic produced by InterAction reveals the horrifying impact sequestration will have on people helped by foreign assistance programs worldwide. Poverty-focused development assistance will be cut by 5 percent, if the sequester is allowed to stand. Five percent might not seem like much, until you look at this:

Nina Keehan, a media relations intern at Bread for the World, is a senior magazine journalism and public health dual major at Syracuse University.

"Sequestration Breaks the Circle of Protection"

“The sequester breaks the circle of protection,” says Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann in a recent interview on “Viewpoint” (Current TV) with John Fugelsang. 

Last week, nearly 100 pastors and religious leaders from across a wide spectrum of the church addressed our nation’s leaders through a joint letter.  They counseled President Barack Obama, Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to be clear about the moral choices they are making, as the Bible tells us that the government has responsibilities concerning poor people.

The consequences, both globally and domestically, of indiscriminate cuts are dire for hungry and poor people. If action isn't taken to fix the sequester, 600,000 women and children will lose their WIC nutrition assistance. Cuts to foreign assistance will cost lives as vulnerable people overseas will no longer have access to medication for AIDS and tuberculosis.  For more on sequestration, and a list of anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs that are affected, download our new fact sheet, "The Consequences of Sequestration ."

In the “Viewpoint” interview, Rev. Beckmann notes that the decisions around the deficit reflect our national values: “This is a tough decision.  You know, it’s not a trivial decision but figuring out how to cut back—how to reduce our deficit without hurting people who are having a hard time feeding their kids—is really important to our national character.”   

It’s not too late to avoid the worst of the effects of the sequester if Congress develops a balanced approach to deficit reduction. Any solution must include both smart spending cuts and new revenue in order to put our nation on a sustainable path while maintaining our commitment to reducing hunger and poverty.  It all depends on the level of outrage and outcry from the American public. Join Bread for the World this week in asking Congress to replace the sequester. Calling your members of Congress at 1-800-826-3688 and urge them to support programs for hungry and poor people.


Washington Update for the Week of Feb. 25, 2013

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A regular legislative update from Bread for the World's government relations team.

    Call to Action:  Ask the administration and your members of Congress to replace the automatic cuts  known as sequestration with a comprehensive, balanced, and bipartisan approach to deficit reduction. The final package must protect programs for hungry and poor people and includes increased revenue. Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or use our toll free number: 1-800-826-3688.

Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters, "A Place at the Table," launches today. The 2013 Offering of Letters asks you to sign a petition to the president as well as write letters to Congress. You can order a kit here, if you haven't already done so, and be sure to contact your regional organizer for more information about the campaign. The documentary A Place at the Table opens in theaters, iTunes and on demand today as well. 

Write Letters to Congress: ask your senators and representative to protect programs vital to hungry and poor people.

The most immediate threat to programs addressing hunger and poverty is sequestration, which goes into effect today. Sequestration imposes a 5.3 percent across the board cut to federal programs like WIC and poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) for the remainder of fiscal year 2013. For more on sequestration basics and a list of anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs that are affected, you can download our fact sheet, "The Consequences of Sequestration."

Congress is considering a number of proposals to eliminate the sequester for the remainder of the fiscal year. However, some of the proposals unfairly place the burden on programs such as WIC, PFDA, and other programs that help lift people out of poverty. We are urging Congress to replace the sequester with a bipartisan, balanced approach to deficit reduction that includes smart spending cuts and new revenues.

Political leaders will be paying close attention to the nation’s reaction to the sequester as we lead up to the next fiscal showdown later in March, the expiration of the continuing resolution currently keeping the government funded. If there is significant outrage over the impact of the cuts, Congress will address the sequester when it takes up the rest of the budget for FY2013 by March 27.  If public opinion isn’t forceful enough, we are likely to see these cuts become the new normal and vital programs will be underfunded for years to come.

Stay tuned for an action alert next week as we learn more; encourage your friends and family to get involved. Building momentum and political will in the next few weeks is critical and will require a loud constituency. Phone calls, messages through social media, and emails to members of Congress will be essential to saving these programs.

Petition the President to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger in the United States and abroad.

We now have more than 7000 signatures on the petition asking President Barak Obama to set a goal and work with Congress to end hunger at home and abroad.  If you haven’t already done so, sign the petition today, and encourage others in your network to join you.

This week, nearly 100 pastors and religious leaders from across a wide spectrum of the church addressed our nation’s leaders through a joint letter.  They counseled President Barak Obama, Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to be clear about the moral choices they are making, as the Bible tells us that the government has responsibilities concerning poor people.

Tell Congress to Protect Hungry People in Upcoming Budget Talks

College_group_writing_CongressWe have avoided the fiscal cliff, but we still have mountains to scale. We continue to advocate for programs that help poor as Congress continues tough budget negotiations. 

Bread members have been essential in protecting tax credits for low-income families, domestic nutrition programs, and poverty-focused development assistance.  However, several key actions by Congress over the next couple of months will again place such vital programs at risk.  We encourage you to continue contacting your members of Congress to let them know that you want them to create a circle of protection around these programs. Soon Congress will begin negotiations to replace the sequester (automatic, across-the-board cuts) by March 1 and raise the debt ceiling by at least $1 trillion. The continuing resolution that extended the fiscal year 2013 budget and kept the government funded expires March 27.  These events could be accompanied by significant spending cuts.  We need you to keep reminding our legislators that they must not balance the budget on the backs of poor and hungry people.

We continue to message members of Congress as part of the 2012 Offering of Letters. Below is an updated sample letter to use when contacting your senators and representative.  We will launch Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters,  “A Place at the Table,” on March 1, and will keep you apprised of any changes or developments on the Bread Blog.  We encourage you and members of your community or congregation to personalize your letters to Congress.

*

Date ____________

Dear Sen. ____________  or Rep.  ____________,

Please prioritize hungry and poor people during the next round of budget negotiations. Over the next two months, your leadership is critical, especially as Congress looks to finalize the fiscal year 2013 budget, address sequestration, and raise the debt ceiling. 

Specifically, I urge you to ensure adequate funding for programs that address hunger and help people move out of poverty. This will require additional revenues to address our deficits.

I appreciate Congress enacting the American Taxpayer Relief Act. The bill raises revenue for the first time in years, while also extending the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC), two of America’s most effective anti-poverty programs.  This bill also largely protects important anti-poverty programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), Medicaid, and international food aid, from major cuts. But the work is not over. Although this fiscal cliff deal is a tremendous first step, more needs to be done to address our country’s long-term fiscal health and ensure funding for programs that fight hunger and lift people out of poverty. I am concerned about the across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to take place if Congress does not develop a more comprehensive deficit-reduction package.  I encourage Congress to balance responsible spending cuts with new revenues in order to address the country's long-term deficits without jeopardizing our nation's commitment to alleviating hunger and poverty.

Allowing these across-the-board cuts will hurt programs such as international poverty-focused development assistance and WIC. Cuts to some international development programs would deny life-saving nutrition to some of the poorest nations, while cuts to WIC could hurt hundreds of thousands of poor mothers and young children in the United States. 

Our budget choices must not hurt those Jesus called “the least of these.” I urge you to form a circle of protection around funding for programs vital to hungry and poor people. May God continue to bless you and your work.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]

*

You can also download a copy of the letter here. If you have questions or need assistance, please contact your regional organizer.

Photo: A college group writes letters to Congress. (Bread for the World)

Bread Applauds House Vote on Foreign Aid Transparency Act

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The Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2012, scheduled for a vote in the House today, would require a standardized monitoring and evaluation of U.S. foreign assistance programs run by agencies such as USAID. Here, children in Indonesia drink clean water provided by activists helped by USAID's Environmental Services Program (Photo: USAID)

[UPDATE, 8:30 p.m. The bill passed this evening, in a 390-0 vote.]

By Alex Loken

Bread for the World is happy to announce that the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2012 (H.R. 3159), led by Reps. Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Howard Berman (D-Calif.), is scheduled to be voted on in the House today.

This bipartisan legislation is an important step toward better evaluation and transparency in U.S. foreign assistance programs.

United States foreign assistance has increasingly been acknowledged as complementary to diplomacy and military efforts—it not only saves millions of lives through vital humanitarian assistance and development programs, but also helps stabilize economies and countries contributing to U.S. national security and economic well-being. As the importance of foreign assistance has increased, so has the number of agencies and organizations that run foreign aid programs. They range from traditional sources, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department, to relatively new organizations and initiatives, such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)." The proliferation of entities implementing foreign assistance has created the need for more coordination and common standards to which all agencies carrying out foreign aid programs must comply.

The Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2012 requires a standardized monitoring and evaluation system with measurable goals for those agencies that administer U.S. foreign assistance programs. Additionally, this legislation ensures that U.S. foreign development assistance be made publicly available and consistently updated on the Foreign Assistance Dashboard, an online tool that provides U.S. taxpayers with information on how foreign aid dollars are being spent.

We are delighted that this landmark piece of aid transparency legislation will be heard in the House. Given its broad support in both the House and Senate, we hope that it moves forward so we can continue to improve the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance.

Alex Loken is the government relations research assistant at Bread for the World.

World AIDS Day 2012: Esperança's Hope

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Esperança would not be alive today were it not for second-line ARV medication for HIV, activists, community health projects, PEPFAR foreign assistance funds, and hope. (Photos by Rebecca J. Vander Meulen)

By Rebecca J. Vander Meulen

Thuli was standing in front of us, telling us that she “should” have been dead—but that she was alive, thanks to anti-HIV antiretroviral medication. While others were crying tears of joy, I left the celebration banquet sobbing with anger and jealousy. I rejoiced in Thuli’s health, but I was angry that she probably would have already lost her life if she had been living in Mozambique instead of South Africa.

The year was 2004, and antiretrovirals, or ARVs, were not yet widely available here. What was the prescription for most Mozambicans who were recently diagnosed with HIV? A healthy diet (not an easy task for the average subsistence farmer), treatment of opportunistic infections, and hope.   Many people told me they’d rather die not knowing their status than find out they were living with HIV and “die early” from the associated despair and shame. Hope, while potentially a useful supplement to medication, seemed to me to be a sorry substitute for it.

One evening this October, a woman was admitted to the health center in Cobue, a small village in a remote corner of Mozambique. Because of the Anglican Diocese of Niassa’s comprehensive Salt, Light, Health community health project and the many Life Team activists who work in the Cobue region, Cobue offers better health services than most communities its size.

I had been told that this woman was “not well.” The next morning, upon meeting her, these words proved to be a dramatic understatement. Infected ulcers and bed sores covered large areas of her body. These raw wounds left her unable to sit up or walk. 

Cobue’s seasoned doctor, made woozy by these oozing sores, began removing dead tissue.  A traditional midwife and the patient’s mother waved cloths to keep the flies at bay. 

Her prognosis was poor. But her name? Esperança. The Portuguese word for “hope.” And for Esperança, hope proved to be stronger than the bacteria that fought for her life.

A team of dedicated people worked for hours each day to clean Esperança’s sores. Though I imagine the process was agonizingly painful, I never heard Esperança complain or grumble. But behind Esperança’s wounds lurked an even more concerning problem: her immune system had been decimated by HIV. 

HIV works within the human body by attacking CD4 cells, which serve as commanders in the body’s defense system. Someone with a healthy immune system typically has a CD4 count of maybe 1000. A CD4 count of 350 or below indicates widespread damage to the immune system, and is a cause for significant concern. Esperança’s CD4 count was 12. 

She had first been diagnosed with HIV in 2008 and had faithfully taken her ARV medications twice a day, as instructed. But the ARVs were no longer working.

In hushed discussions with the doctor, I compassionately hoped that Esperança could at least recover to the point of being able to sit up before she died.

How rational—or naïve—I was.

Three days into her wound care, with thousands of milligrams of antibiotics circulating through her body, Esperança greeted us with glee.  Giddy, she explained that she had managed to leave her bed overnight to go to the bathroom outside.  This was something she hadn’t done in weeks. 

Esperança, already all too familiar with death (having lost her only child), now admits that death was on her mind during these days of hospitalization. But that morning, her joy of having been able to get out of bed overwhelmed her thoughts of death.

A team of efficient and dedicated people in high places got authorization from the national Ministry of Health for Esperança to begin a new regime of ARVs—a significantly more expensive set of “second-line” medications that are only available to a small proportion of Mozambicans living with HIV. 

Within days, Esperança's increasing mobility and healing sores proved that these new ARVs were effectively halting HIV’s reproduction within her body.  Esperança continued to improve, and was discharged from the hospital only a month after I’d dreamed that she’d be able to sit up before she died.

She arrived home to surprised celebration.  Friends and neighbors told her they didn’t think she’d ever step foot in Mala again.  The “Mother’s Union” women’s group surrounded her with prayers of thanksgiving.

Esperanca_photo_4

Esperança had clung to the hope that too often eludes me. She had the courage to live beyond the facts, fully aware of the possibility of being humiliated in that hope.

William, a fisherman turned HIV technician extraordinaire, and one of Esperança’s primary caregivers, explained that “most people didn’t think she’d live to seek the weekend.” “I praise God,” he said.

Esperança has gained seven pounds in the past two weeks.

Today’s global World AIDS Day theme is "Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS related deaths.” Properly managed, HIV is no longer a death sentence.  We are still far from that reality here in Mozambique, where tens of thousands of people still die annually from AIDS-related causes. But Esperança’s life gives flesh to the vision of zero deaths.

Esperança wouldn’t be alive today without second-line ARVs. She wouldn’t be alive if her family hadn’t received treatment and teaching about HIV from Salt, Light, Health and Life Team activists. She wouldn’t be alive if her mother, her primary care-giver over the past months, had given up. She wouldn’t be alive without the daily wound care she received from a team of informally trained lay people.  She wouldn’t be alive without the thoughtful conversations between several different doctors, hundreds of miles apart. She wouldn’t be alive without the activists around the world who lobbied over the years for lower ARV prices, and the PEPFAR funds that made her medication available. But the obligatory prerequisite to all of that was her own deep hope. Esperança’s esperança.

Yes, medicines saved Esperança. But had she had any less esperança, she would never have made it to the phase where she could have received these medicines. Esperança lives today not only because of the miracle of newfangled medicines, but also because of good, old-fashioned hard work and her resilient human spirit.

I didn’t know Esperança before October. But I imagine that she must have practiced living out her name for years. Only a well-practiced "hoper" could have hoped like she did.

Rebecca J. Vander Meulen (http://rvmphotography.com) is a photographer and community development facilitator who has been based in the province of Niassa in northern Mozambique since 2003.

How Bread's Work Supports Those Affected By Natural Disasters

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One of the many New York trees uprooted during Hurrican Sandy on Nov. 4, 2012. (USDA photo by Dave Kosling)

By Christine Melendez Ashley and Faustine Wabwire

Bread for the World’s efforts to create a circle of protection and push Congress to reduce our deficits in a responsible manner are critical to ensuring vulnerable people affected by natural disasters at home and abroad have the support they need. These programs continue to be at risk as Congress works to craft a farm bill and a deficit reduction package.

In the past year, Bread has worked to protect and strengthen domestic nutrition programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and child nutrition programs. These programs have provided quick and substantial help to New York, New Jersey, and other affected states in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. For example:

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rushed emergency food to affected areas for distribution through food banks and emergency food channels.
  • USDA has authorized 13 affected states to issue replacement SNAP benefits for food purchased and lost in the month of October. They also authorized an extra two weeks of benefits for everyone on SNAP in and around New York City—a benefit totaling $65 million.
  •  Some of the worst affected states have also been authorized to allow SNAP recipients to purchase hot, ready-to-eat foods. This is not allowed under normal SNAP rules.
  • USDA approved free school lunches for all children in New York public school districts for the month of November.

Bread has also been a strong advocate for effective foreign assistance programs and international food aid. In the last several years, Bread has pushed for robust funding of these programs. Hurricane relief efforts abroad are being carried out through foreign assistance programs at USAID. For example:

  • USAID has provided 50 metric tons of food aid to Haiti to help address food insecurity concerns.
  •  USAID has distributed plastic sheeting to help approximately 10,000 people, family hygiene kits have helped nearly 12,500 people, and an estimated 6,400 blankets.
  •  USAID has also provided items such as wheelbarrows and tools helpful for clean-up to displacement camps most affected by Hurricane Sandy.

In the last two years, Congress has introduced proposals to decimate these programs. Despite these threats, Bread has pushed back and prevented these proposals from becoming law, thus enabling these programs to respond quickly and effectively to dramatic need. As Congress works to avoid the “fiscal cliff” and negotiate a budget deal, we must continue to push for a circle of protection around programs that effectively serve the most vulnerable in the United States and around the world.

Christine Melendez Ashley is a policy analyst in Bread for the World's government relations department.

Faustine Wabwire is Bread for the World Institute's foreign assistance policy analyst.

Washington Update for the Week of Sept. 24, 2012

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A weekly legislative update from Bread for the World's government relations team.  

The House and Senate are both on recess until after the November 6 elections. They are expected to return to Washington as early as November 13. For information on communicating with your members of Congress during this campaign season, contact your regional organizer or use our online election resources.

The Circle of Protection: The Overall Campaign

Election season is in full swing. While members of Congress finalized a stop-gap spending bill that will fund federal programs through March of next year, they put off acting on other pieces of legislation, including the farm bill. After November, members of Congress will make difficult decisions about deficit reduction, particularly the $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts scheduled to take effect in January and the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. Bread members must continue to push for a proposal that safeguards programs that help vulnerable people in the United States and abroad. 

This week, the Senate passed a six-month continuing resolution (CR, temporarily funding government operations until a budget is passed) to fund federal discretionary programs at roughly current levels, plus a 0.6 percent increase for the first part of the 2013 fiscal year. The CR also included a clean six-month extension of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The negotiated CR does not alter the path of scheduled across-the-board spending cuts, or sequestration, which is still scheduled to go into effect January 2.  The House passed the CR last week. 

The House and Senate left Washington without taking action on the farm bill—a bill governing federal farm and food policy. The current farm bill is set to expire on September 30, 2012. This legislation governs domestic nutrition programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), and international food aid programs that are vital to hungry and poor people. Leadership in both chambers have indicated that they will take action on the farm bill after the elections, during the lame duck session of Congress. The Senate continues to push for a full five-year reauthorization of the farm bill while the House is open to a temporary extension with the full bill being resolved next year. How leaders decide to move forward will be informed by the outcome of November elections.

While farm programs technically expire on September 30, harmful administrative changes (like federal farm commodity price supports reverting to 1949 law) will not go into effect right away. The 2008 farm bill covers all of 2012’s calendar year crops, allowing some wiggle room for Congress to decide how to move forward. Additionally, provisions included in the continuing resolution secure SNAP funding through next year. The last time the farm bill was allowed to expire was in 2007, when the bill expired on September and an extension was not passed until December 26.

The bipartisan group of Senators called the Gang of Eight continues its work to develop a comprehensive, bipartisan package that would replace the sequester and expiring tax cuts with a framework for deficit reduction, including additional tax revenues and further spending cuts. While producing a deal laying out the specifics of what programs to cut and what taxes to raise is unrealistic for the lame duck session, the proposal could establish a process for committees to find the specific savings. If successful in reaching a deal that Congress enacts, the Gang of Eight proposal could determine the available funding for programs for hungry and poor people for the next 10 years. Those involved in the Gang of Eight include Senators Warner (D-VA), Durbin (D-IL) , Conrad (D-ND), Bennet (D-CO), Chambliss (R-GA), Crapo (R-ID), Coburn (R-OK), and Johanns (R-NE).  

Domestic Nutrition

More than 80 members have cosponsored House Resolution 760, which rejects the cuts to SNAP included in the proposed House farm bill (H.R. 6083). The resolution is non-binding, but it is an opportunity for members of Congress to show strong support for protecting SNAP by cosponsoring the resolution. We are encouraging Bread members to ask their representatives to cosponsor.  A full list of cosponsors can be found online.

On Friday afternoon,  Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), along with Reps. Paul Broun (R-GA), Steve Chabot (R-OH), and Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), introduced a proposal to block-grant farm bill nutrition programs. Under this plan, SNAP, the Emergency Food Assistance Program, Community Food Projects, Commodity Supplemental Food Program, Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program would be consolidated into a single block grant to the states, with funding returned to FY2008 levels. Members argue this proposal will streamline programs and give states more flexibility while cutting spending. Like other SNAP block grant proposals introduced this Congress, this proposal will not likely become law, despite possible attempts to attach it to a moving farm bill in the lame duck session. For more information on why block-granting SNAP would be harmful, please see our Block Grants 101 fact sheet.

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is facing potentially devastating cuts. Although the continuing resolution extends funding through March at levels agreed to last August in the Budget Control Act , WIC is subject to approximately 8.2 percent in automatic cuts on January 2 if Congress fails to come up with a deficit-reduction plan to replace the sequester. These cuts could mean a loss of benefits for more than 700,000 low-income women and young children.

Poverty-Focused Foreign Assistance

Poverty-focused foreign aid makes up a small part of total discretionary funding, which must be approved by Congress each year in the appropriations process. The continuing resolution funds programs at the Senate levels for FY 2013. PFFA is subject to cuts in January when sequestration is enacted. The programs would take an 8.2 percent cut, according to the OMB report. These cuts could mean lives lost around the world. For example, as a result of the sequester:

  • 276,500 fewer people would receive HIV/AIDS treatment, potentially leading to 63,000 more AIDS-related deaths and 124,000 more children being orphaned.
  • 656,000 fewer children annually will have access to quality primary school education, making their road to overcoming poverty that much harder.  
   

Earlier in the week, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) submitted a proposal to cut off aid to several countries, including Pakistan, Libya, and Egypt. The Paul amendment failed by a vote of 10-81. 


The Foreign Assistance Transparency and Accountability Act (S. 3310), introduced by Senator Lugar, with support from Senator Rubio, was passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 19. The objective of this bill is to improve transparency and accountability within U.S. foreign aid by instituting a standard monitoring and evaluation requirement across all agencies that administer U.S. foreign assistance. Additionally, it calls for information garnered from the evaluations to be made public. The companion legislation is the Poe-Berman bill in the House. Our hope is that both bills will be taken up by the full House and Senate during the lame duck session.

Tax Credits

The 2001 and 2003 tax cuts expire at the end of this year, and Congress is in the midst of debating which parts to extend, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit. 

We expect the tax credits to be an important issue in the lame duck session, along with the rest of the tax cuts. The bipartisan Gang of Eight senators are also looking at the tax credits as part of the tax cuts and possibilities for tax reform. 

International Food Aid

Food aid is reauthorized in the farm bill process and funded in the appropriations process. Like other discretionary programs, funding is extended at Senate levels for the FY2013 budget as part of the continuing resolution. Food aid is still subject to sequester and may be cut by 8.2 percent, which would result in over 3 million people losing access to vital food assistance and 377,200 fewer children having access to quality primary school education.   

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