Lack of attention to farm bill could spell hunger for many
We will continue to keep pressure on our elected officials in Congress to pass a farm bill that doesn’t balance the budget on the backs of struggling, low-income and hungry American families.
an exhausting and bruising election campaign, the time has come to reunite and get back to the business of ending hunger. The farm bill, which expired on Sept. 30, is still in limbo, meaning the fate of millions of Americans depending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, to survive is still unknown.
Included within the farm bill is the reauthorization of funding for food stamps. Approximately 47 million Americans are currently receiving food stamps. Even here in Texas, as the so-called Texas economic miracle hasn’t materialized for many, fortunately one in seven, or 3.5 million, Texans are able to put food on their tables with the help of this program. The majority of food stamp recipients are children, the elderly and those with disabilities.
Food stamps are facing $16 billion in cuts. Should the drastic House-proposed cuts pass, up to 303,000 Texans stand to lose critical nutrition benefits beginning Jan. 1, according to the federal Office of Management and Budget. What a sad way to bring in the new year.
Adding further insult to injury, Texas would also lose $37 million each month in food stamp benefits, which translates to a loss of 16 million meals per month. The monthly loss to the Texas economy would be $66 mil- lion, because every $1 in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program spending produces $1.79 in economic activity.
All of this will worsen our dismal hunger and poverty situation in Texas. One in five Texans live in a household at risk of hunger. For children, it’s one in four.
Because Congress failed to pass a budget and enact legislation developed by a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, automatic spending reductions and budget cuts, known as sequestration, are to be invoked as of Jan. 1.
In September, a preliminary outline of how these automatic budget cuts would affect different federal programs was released. These automatic mandatory budget cuts total $1.2 trillion and are evenly split over nine years between defense and nondefense spending. While many important programs that assist low-income Americans are exempt from sequestration — including the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Child Nutrition Programs, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families — discretionary programs such as WIC, the Women Infants and Children program, will experience a 9.3 percent ($543 million) cut.
While federal nutrition programs may escape the budget-cutting cross hairs, the buckshot spray in acrossthe-board cuts will still impact the poor and hungry. Programs affecting food prices, investments in education and health, and suspended tax cuts will make climbing out of poverty, and hence the food lines, even more difficult.
We will continue to keep pressure on our elected officials in Congress to pass a farm bill that doesn’t balance the budget on the backs of struggling, low-income and hungry American families. Congress should keep in mind that three-quarters of Americans support food stamps and oppose cuts. That’s a lot of potential voters. And, after all, that next election campaign has already started.