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If You Eat, Breathe, Drink Water or Care, It's Time to Make Noise About the Farm Bill

6/7/2013 2:20:00 PM

Tags: Farm bill, food stamps, SNAP, Mark Bittman, K.C. Compton

If you aren’t outraged by the latest iteration of the U.S. Farm Bill, you might not be paying attention.

While most U.S. citizens are aware of the Farm Bill, far too many of us remain ignorant or apathetic to its true impact on our lives. The bill itself doesn’t make awareness easy.

Described by food journalist and New York Times columnist Mark Bittman as “impenetrably arcane,” this comprehensive legislation covers most federal policies related to agriculture and comprises 15 provisions, or “titles,” that determine not only who gets crop subsidies and insurance, but who gets to eat — and how much.

The bill is supposed to be renewed every five years, but the bill now being discussed has been being considered since 2010, and looks to be headed for yet another extension. These extensions allow for funding changes in the individual titles and this is the source of much potential meanness and mischief in this round of negotiations. 

The Farm Bill finances food stamps — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — and the current House version proposes $20 billion in cuts to this program. That’s billion — a devastating blow to food assistance for this nation’s most vulnerable people — primarily children and the working poor. This cruel slash-and-burn is not the only horror story embedded in the proposed legislation, buIndustrial Pig Farmt it’s the most dramatic.

But the bill isn’t bad news for everyone. It actually leaves the richest, largest, most–polluting, least animal-friendly producers (we won’t call them “farmers”) in pretty good shape.

Mark Bittman lays out the full dimension of the hypocrisy, inequality and just plain meanness of the bill in his New York Times blog, “Welfare for the Wealthy.”

If you’re as sickened and disgusted by the reverse Robin Hoodism proposed in the House version of this bill, we urge you to let your congressional representatives know, loud and proud, that you believe we can do better than to threaten the well-being of the environment, U.S. farmers and tens of millions of our fellow Americans who will be harmed by the misguided cuts proposed in this extension.

Here’s a little something to make your blood boil, if it isn’t already: As a food producer, Tennessee Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher — one of the representatives promoting the SNAP cuts — benefits nicely from the bill’s direct subsidy payments. According to Bittman, the average food stamps recipient in Fincher’s state gets $132.20 a month in food aid. Fincher receives $193 a day from the program. His phone number is 202-225-4714.

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