Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Senate Farm Bill Vote Imminent!

The full Senate is voting on the Farm Bill this week.  This is it!  Our once-in-five-years opportunity to improve this nation’s food and farm policy.  Write to your Senators today, urging them to support a Farm Bill that alleviates hunger and malnutrition, supports vibrant farms and rural communities, and protects God’s creation. 

See a summary of important, harmful amendments outlined in the sample letter to Congress below.*

Why the Farm Bill?

Our nation’s food and farm policies, as embodied in the farm bill, affect people from rural America to inner cities, from our local communities to less industrialized regions around the world. The farm bill is the single largest piece of federal policy impacting our food system. A good farm bill can strengthen nutrition programs like SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), help our struggling rural communities, support new and socially disadvantaged farmers, enhance global food aid to the world’s most impoverished, and encourage farming and ranching practices that protect God’s creation.

Action this Week:

This week, the U.S. Senate is voting on its version of the 2013 Farm Bill (S. 954), with votes on amendments already underway. Now is the time to support a fair Farm Bill, and related amendments, that will help alleviate hunger and malnutrition in the U.S. and around the world, support international development, promote growth in U.S. rural communities, and encourage stewardship of creation.

We need Congress to pass a Farm Bill this year.  The current authorization of the Farm Bill expired in 2012 and without reauthorization, many conservation and innovative, small farm programs will no longer exist, or be left with no funding. Farmers, who engage in an inherently risky business for the good of the rest of us, need the stability that a Farm Bill reauthorization brings.  Farming requires long-term planning and producers need to know what sort of support they can expect from the federal government.  In addition, the largest, most effective anti-hunger program in the nation, SNAP, is authorized through the Farm Bill.

The Senate farm bill is not perfect, but it is the best farm bill we are likely to see from this Congress, especially when compared to the severe cuts to nutrition and conservation programs contained in the House farm bill.  The Senate bill represents an important opportunity to provide stability for farmers, nutrition assistance to the economically vulnerable, food aid to those affected by disaster, development opportunities in rural communities, and land stewardship and conservation for the good of the land for the safety of drinking water. 

Write to your Senators here. 

In particular, tell the Senate to oppose harmful amendments that will codify discrimination in our flagship nutrition program.*

We urge the Senate to support a Farm Bill and amendments that prioritize:
  • Domestic Hunger and Nutrition: With continued high unemployment and a struggling economy, Congress should support access to adequate and nutritious food for those in need and oppose attempts to weaken or restructure these programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP);
  • International Food Security and Development: The Food for Peace program saves people's lives in times of dire emergencies and combats chronic hunger in poor communities around the world. Support reforms to Food for Peace that give aid workers on the ground more flexibility to employ interventions best suited to local conditions and replace monetization. The Administration's budget proposed major changes to food aid that would provide similar flexibility. Urge Congress to adopt such flexibilities in authorizing legislation that also protects funding for emergency assistance and food security development projects;
  • Farm Subsidies: It is important to continue a reasonable amount of support for farmers, but we must focus that support on the small and moderate-sized, independent producers who most need a safety net. Given current high commodity prices and federal budget constraints, agricultural subsidies and direct payments should be reduced overall, and targeted to small and moderate-sized farms, especially minority owned-farms. Government resources should assist those who truly need assistance and support those who comply with environmentally sound and sustainable farming practices;
  • Conservation and Stewardship: Support full funding for conservation initiatives that promote stewardship of the land and environmentally sound agriculture practices. These programs provide technical assistance and financial incentives for farmers and ranchers to adopt practices aimed at fostering healthy, productive, and non-eroding soils, clean air and water, energy savings and wildlife habitat;
  • Rural Development: Rural communities and small towns are the backbone of the social and economic life of America. Effective policies and programs are needed to encourage rural development and promote the culture and well-being of these communities.

Send a Message today!

Tell your Senators to support amendments to strengthen a healthy food and farm policy, make sure that farm supports go to the farms and farmers who most need the aid, and to reject amendments that weaken nutrition, rural development, and conservation programs.  In particular, tell the Senate to oppose harmful amendments that will codify discrimination in our flagship nutrition program.*

For more information on the Senate Farm Bill process and for information and updates about various amendments, visit our blog at  Updates will be posted as debate continues.

* There are two discriminatory amendments of major concern:
1. Oppose Sessions Amdt #947
This amendment would require every citizen member of a SNAP household to produce an original birth certificate or passport to prove citizenship. Also, unless all members of a household provide these papers, the entire household would be disqualified from SNAP. Low-income documented immigrants already are required to provide detailed verification of their immigration status under current law, as are citizen children in immigrant households.  This amendment would delay or deny benefits to native-born U.S. citizens who don’t have a birth certificate or passport.

2. Oppose Vitter Amdt #1056
(Note: this amendment has already been agreed to by unanimous consent, but it’s not too late to make Senators go back and change their minds.)
This amendment Denies SNAP to ex-offenders. The amendment harshly punishes people who committed a single violent crime years or decades ago and fully paid their debt to society. They would be made ineligible for SNAP for life, and SNAP benefits for children or other family members would be cut. It would also impose serious barriers to individuals who are not ex-offenders. Every single individual on SNAP – including children, older adults, and people with disabilities – would have to provide a written statement that neither they nor other members of their household were ever convicted of one of the listed felonies. Urge the Senate to oppose or modify the amendment to address these serious problems. For an in-depth discussion of this amendment, see the CBPP Off the Charts blog.