Farm Bill Update : Call Your Senators

Jan 30, 2014:

Green_Farmer.jpgReport on the Farm Bill:

$8 Billion in Cuts to Food Stamps Passed:

Call Senators to Oppose Farm Bill

This petition to oppose Farm Bill in Senate already has 74,000 signatures. Can you help us make 100,000?

Sign & share this petition now: https://www.dailykos.com/campaigns/657&tag=012914splash4

What happened in the Farm Bill?

The Farm Bill, which includes funding for the SNAP (Food Stamp) program, was passed in the House of Representatives yesterday (Wednesday Jan. 29). It included over $8 billion in cuts to the SNAP program. The Bill was supposed to be passed in 2012 and has finally been passed after two years of partisan fighting between conservatives wanting to slash $40 billion from the SNAP program, and moderates wanting no cuts or significantly smaller cuts.

In the 251-166 vote, progressive Democrats joined with Tea Party faction Republicans in voting against the bill. The Democrats were opposed to the unnecessary cuts made to SNAP, while the Republicans who voted against the bill felt the cuts weren’t nearly enough.

The Bill now moves to the Senate and if passed there, on to the President.

Besides SNAP there are of course many other issues in the bill mostly relating to farm payments. Those are discussed a little below.

What is the main concern ?

As Western Center on Law and Poverty put it:

“Our biggest concern about the bill, of course, is that it was passed in the House of Representatives w/out an honest conversation about the impact of hunger among poor Americans, stagnant poverty, record inequality and the need to increase benefits (not cut) to reverse trends in hunger. CA Has highest supplemental poverty rate, lowest SNAP participation rate in country and 2 of the 5 hungriest cities in the country. This bill takes us in the wrong direction.  “

How were the $8 billion in cuts made?

The bill limits the state option of providing SNAP recipients a small Low-Income House Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) benefit in order to automatically allow for a Standard Utility Allowance (SUA) deduction. This option keeps renters from receiving fewer benefits if their utilities are included in their rent.  California implemented this so called "Heat and Eat" option, enacted by Assembly Bill 6 (Fuentes, D-Los Angeles) in January 2013.  This provision helps a significant number of CalFresh eligible households while simplifying paperwork for both families and administrators

What’s the national impact of the cuts?

Ron Nixon in NY Times: “Feeding America, a coalition of food banks across the county, said the change would result in 34 lost meals per months for the affected households. The bill does provide a $200 million increase in financing to food banks, though many said the money might not be enough to offset the expected surge in demand for food.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/30/us/politics/house-approves-farm-bill-ending-2-year-impasse.html?_r=0

 

Who do the cuts affect in California?

Again from Western Center: “Recent analysis suggests that as many as 300,000 households will receive lower monthly benefits (a decrease of $60 on average) and 1,000 cases could become ineligible for CalFresh benefits entirely if California ends the “Heat and Eat” policy as a result of the passage of the Farm Bill. As a result, California would lose $275 million in 2013-2014.”

How did LA legislators vote?

Our delegation voted against the Farm Bill, and to hold the line against the cuts.

http://politics.nytimes.com/congress/votes/113/house/2/31

The LA representatives are listed at the end of this message. Please thank them for their No vote.

What other new provisions were added to food stamps in this version of the bill?

You may know that people with past drug felonies are prohibited from getting food assistance. This federal law was passed in 1996, but states have the option to revoke it for their particular state.

The new Farm Bill expands the list of felonies that incur this ban on SNAP benefits to include rape and murder. State won’t have the option to revoke it. Some Congresspeople were able to get language in the bill to ameliorate this provision. It applies only to crimes committed after the bill passes (if it does pass). Further it applies only if the person is not in compliance with their parole. In that way it’s actually better than the current law in California, which prohibits people with certain drug felonies from getting food benefits, ever.

To this date no one has produced evidence that keeping people from eating after they get out of prison benefits anyone. It hasn’t impacted California’s 63% prison recidivism rate.

Are these cuts not as bad as what was originally proposed?

It’s true that the $8 billion in cuts is far less than the $40 billion in cuts proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan in his budget. But any cuts send the wrong message at a time when most of America has not recovered from the ongoing recession that began over 5 years ago.

“In a first, working-age people now make up the majority in U.S. households that rely on food stamps — a switch from a few years ago, when children and the elderly were the main recipients”, according to Hope Yen in this AP article:

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/new-face-food-stamps-working-age-americans-0

It’s difficult to see how any cuts in food stamps, or any rules making it more difficult to qualify, meet the needs of the current situation in America, which is a long term recession and increasing income inequality.

What worse could happen?

They can still cut more in spite of what some people have said. One congressperson was on MSNBC touting that the passage of the Farm Bill will give us five years of SNAP spending at the current level.

This is simply not true. Besides the Farm Bill, SNAP funding can be cut in the general Appropriations Bills passed annually by Congress or through other legislation. In fact, Paul Ryan’s original $40 billion cuts proposal was not in the Farm Bill but in the general federal budget.

 In September, the Republicans actually did pass a bill through the House, with only Republican votes, that cut $40 billion from the program. Of course that bill did not survive the Senate, but with the real possibility of a Republican majority in the Senate, a massive food stamp cut could be passed with only the President standing in its way. Add a Republican president to the mix in 2016, and we could see the program decimated, unless more education is done in Republican areas about the value of this program, which once held the support of leaders of both political parties.

What about the farm portions of the bill?

In a “bait and switch” move, the legislators technically eliminated some of the controversial direct payments to wealthy agribusiness but more than made up for the payments lost by switching the funding to subsidizing crop insurance instead. This allows them to boast that they reformed the corrupted system although in fact they were “winking and nodding” while moving the same money to the same people under another name.

According to the Environmental Working Group, the provisions in the new Farm Bill “keep taxpayers in the dark about who is benefiting from the billions of federal dollars spent on crop insurance subsidies and underwriting gains.” See more at http://www.ewg.org/release/farm-bill-falls-far-short-vital-reform

What should we do now?

1. Call our Senators to urge them to vote against the Farm Bill.

Senator Dianne Feinstein DC Office Phone: (202) 224-3841: LA Office Phone: (310) 914-7300

Senator Barbara Boxer Washington Office  (202) 224-3553 : LA Office (213) 894-5000

The bill is now heading to the Senate and ultimately the President’s pen for signature.

The Senate is expected to vote as early as tomorrow. They cannot make amendments or changes to the bill before them.

 

2. This petition to oppose Farm Bill in Senate already has 74,000 signatures. Can you help us make 100,000?

Sign & share this petition now: https://www.dailykos.com/campaigns/657&tag=012914splash4

 

3. If you live in any of the following LA area districts, call to thank your member for voting against this Farm Bill, which unnecessarily cut SNAP benefits and made a mockery of the idea of reforming our corrupted farm payment system:

Karen Bass, Xavier Becerra, Judy Chu, Janice Hahn, Alan Lowenthal, Grace Napolitano, Lucile Roybal-Allard, Linda Sanchez, Loretta Sanchez, Adam Schiff, Maxine Waters, Henry Waxman

 

 

 


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