Every five years, our federal legislators take on the task of renewing the Farm Bill, a hundreds-of-billions-of-dollars piece of law that doesn’t just help farmers: It touches every part of our nation’s food system. 80% of the current Farm Bill goes to nutrition programs that many Northeast residents rely on, like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) and Double Up Food Bucks, which doubles SNAP dollars at farmers markets like our own Northeast Farmers Market. More than 39,000 people in Jackson County rely on SNAP for access to food – half of them seniors and children.
The previous version of the Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30, so programs are relying on extensions for the time being. Both the House and Senate have passed their own versions of a new bill, but they have been unable to agree on a compromised bill.
The bipartisan version passed by the Senate affirms what millions of people across the country know is true: SNAP reduces hunger and poverty, and protecting and strengthening SNAP — not cutting it — is the right way forward. The Senate version protects and strengthens SNAP, ensuring that SNAP will continue to help feed us all.
The best outcome for Missouri – and the Northeast – is a strong, bipartisan farm bill that protects SNAP. The Senate farm bill meets these criteria.
On the other hand, the partisan House bill would take away food assistance from 2 million struggling Americans, including children, seniors, and veterans. The House bill cuts SNAP benefits by nearly $19 billion and diverts much of that money to a risky new scheme of ineffective and unproven work programs. Additionally, the bill includes unforgiving penalties that would take away food assistance from those who don’t prove every month that they work enough hours or qualify for an exemption.
(And, despite the common misconception, 77% of families receiving SNAP have members who work.) These harsh rules and penalties would apply to millions of SNAP participants, putting at risk parents and their kids, people with disabilities, older workers, and people who are already working but can’t get enough hours at work to meet the requirement.
SNAP is our nation’s first line of defense against hunger. It is structured to respond quickly when a person or family experiences a change in need from an economic downturn, natural disaster, or other causes. SNAP reduces hunger and poverty, improves health and learning, elevates productivity, creates jobs, and strengthens our communities.
I urge you to contact our representatives – Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt, and Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver – at 202-225-3121 extension 2, to let them know the importance of working across party lines to ensure that the conference agreement on the Farm Bill adopts the Senate’s approach to SNAP.