Why YOU Should Be Paying Attention.
Using the typical American breakfast as a metaphor, in one of his more famous sermons, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded Americans of how interdependent we are. Thanks to the miracle of capitalism, most of us enjoy Idaho potatoes without ever lifting a finger to plant, harvest or ship them. Let something happen to the trucking industry and a significant number of us cease to enjoy Idaho potatoes. Hence the current Farm Bill is of tremendous interest to rank and file Americans.
However, due to the demand of survival inside a five-year recession, most Americans are not paying attention to an almost $995 billion piece of legislation which makes it possible for enough potatoes to be planted for McDonald’s Dollar Menu.
As of July 12, 2012 the House Agricultural Committee passed its version of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act by a vote of 35 in favor and 11 in disagreement. The bill now goes to the House Floor for debate and approval. Once the bill survives that process, and is amended to the satisfaction of 435 House members, it will retur n to the Senate before going to the President for signature.
This means that the American People can still influence the Bill, as only a compromise supported by both the Senate and House is signed by the President.
According to the United States Census Bureau, 314 million Americans exist. As we speak, 46.2 million of them are utilizing food stamps, which is funded by the FARRM Bill, or almost 1 out of 7 Americans. However, at the beginning of June, a new jobs report documents 5.83 million Americans drawing upon unemployment benefits, with the Federal Reserve perplexed about an 8.2% unemployment rate until the end of 2012.
Despite the above numbers, the House version of the FARRM Bill cuts “$35 billion in mandatory funding” – their words. In the midst of a five year recession, elected officials are proposing $16 billion be eliminated from Food Stamps spending – even though this is mandated by the law establishing the spending.
The $16 billion in cuts is justified like this:
“Makes Common Sense Reforms to Program Eligibility: Restricts categorical eligibility, or automatic eligibility, to only those households receiving cash assistance from Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or other state general assistance programs. Ensures all households meet the requirements of SNAP law, including the asset and gross income limits, before they can receive benefits. Receiving a TANF-funded brochure or referral to an ‘800’ number hotline would no longer automatically make a household eligible for SNAP.”
This language borders on being purposefully deceptive. The USDA reports that the Food Stamps program has a 96% accuracy rate nation-wide. Food Banks and anti-hunger organizations complain that even with 46.2 million Americans utilizing the program 3 more Americans can benefit from food stamps yet do not understand how to access the program. That would mean that 138.6 million Americans are potential receipents of mandatory spending.
According to USDA Chairman Tom Vislick, such spending is a good investment into America’s Recovery from a five year Recession. For every $1 invested 84 cents is generated in economic activity.
So, why would the House Agricultural Committee propose eliminating “traditional” College Students who meet the legal income guidelines for food stamps?
Why would the House Agricultural Committee eliminate the $500 million in incentive bonuses that inspired States to target those three Americans experiencing hunger who do not know they are eligible?
What Rank and File Americans Can Do.
The Farming community is putting tremendous pressure upon elected leadership to pass a compromised FARRM Bill by September 30, 2012. This is when the new fiscal year begins. Small farmers are in desperate need of governmental spending, due to poor economic conditions. They are frustrated by the traditional August recess, where Congress persons visit their home States before returning to close out the fiscal year in September.
Some pundits and political strategists predict that if a compromised Bill passes now, it will benefit the current Administration. The USDA just survived a round of criticism from Debbie Dooley, national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots.
“It is very disconcerting to see the Obama administration marketing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in recent television ads,” she wrote. “The ads attempt to glamorize food stamps and encourage people to apply for assistance.”
She stresses that the measurement of the program should be how people are getting off of food stamps, not how many persons are applying. Few Americans will disagree with her. The issue is what is necessary to facilitate a reduction in food stamp enrollment: decent paying jobs. The Republicans have spent more time fighting “Obamacare” than they have measures which promote economic recovery, like an investment into Food Stamps.
Contact Representative Collin Peterson’s office at 202-225-2165. Tell him to maintain Food Stamp funding at mandatory funding levels. Compromise for the sake of the American People.