The House Farm Bill passed. Now let’s look at the Senate bill.

The 2018 Farm Bill passes the House last Thursday by a very narrow margin. 213 yeas to 211 nays. If you’re interested in seeing if your rep was on the yea or nay side of this, go here: Final Vote on HR2, June 21,2018

This bill cut $19 billion from SNAP which equates to serving around 2 million low income, food insecure people. It imposes stricter work requirements that can’t be opted out by states.  Instead of giving working families a little relief when they finally get their heads above water, it imposes a strict benefits cliff that cuts off benefits to those who’s income rises even slightly above the income eligibility limit. People formerly incarcerated for certain crimes are banned for life from receiving SNAP.  It also adds a ton of paperwork and reporting that will not only be expensive for states to implement but just complicates the application process. There are already under served low income folks not applying for SNAP because of the process and a lot of caseworkers are less able to act like social workers because of the amount of clerical business involved.

The Senate has introduced it’s own version of the Farm Bill  that avoids all the mean stuff and instead expands the programs they know help and introducing pilot programs to improve healthy food access. It makes things easier for disabled and elderly people allowing them to certify for 3 year periods and tweaks the EBT system so it’s more reliable.

In short, this is a bill that recognizes that SNAP works and strengthens it instead of hurting low income families. This bill will probably be voted on this week so call your Senators and tell them to vote YES on the Farm Bill.  There is a form letter here you can submit or call direct using 888-398-8702 or their office number.

As always, if you’re someone who hates making calls & deals with some anxiety over it, it’s helpful to write yourself a little script of what your going to say. This is a great tip sheet for phone calling with anxiety: How to Call Your Reps When You Have Social Anxieties

[today’s post brought to you by my delicious dinner of chicken stir fry that SNAP helped to purchase the ingredients for]

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#HandsOffSnap

 


The House votes Friday on the current Farm Bill. This version cut or reduce food assistance for an estimated 2 million recipients. This bill imposes stricter work requirements and will highly impact single parents, older folks, and people with disabilities.
Take a few minutes to call your congressperson and ask them to vote NO on HR2 and cuts to SNAP. The Capital switchboard is 202-224-3121 or you can call your reps local office.

I’m including some helpful articles here if you need to familiarize yourself with the issues and talking points. As always, if you’re someone who hates making calls & deals with some anxiety over it, it’s helpful to write yourself a little script of what your going to say. This is a great tip sheet for phone calling with anxiety: How to Call Your Reps When You Have Social Anxieties

What the hell is the Farm Bill anyway?

For Farmers on SNAP, the Farm Bill Will Hurt in More Ways Than One

Congress should leave the food stamps program alone

“It’s weird growing food and being hungry at the same time”

2018 Farm Bill imposes a lifetime ban from SNAP for people convicted of certain offenses w/ no option for states to opt out

Farm Bill seeks to restrict food stamp benefits while allowing subsidies for billionaires

 

UPDATE: This bill passed. To learn about the Senate bill, go here

Food News: Using post offices as food sharing stations, the 2018 Farm Bill,ending food deserts in Minnesota

This post covers food news that pertains to food insecurity and SNAP.


First Class , a project proposal by Washington University students that won the  Urban SOS: Fair Share Student Competition, suggest utilizing postal workers and post offices to alleviate food insecurity. Postal workers could pick up food donations on their route and deliver them to the food bank or bring them back to the post office, which would also serve as a food sharing station. Going to the post office would also mean you’re walking into a permanent food bank. This proposal was focused on L.A. county so it doesn’t address accessibility issues for rural folks,obviously but in theory, this is such a great idea.

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Sonny Perdue, Trump’s pick for Secretary of Ag, hasn’t had a confirmation hearing yet but his staffers already have concerns about the lack of basic contact from The White House , as well as support through the hearings.   Perdue is likely to be confirmed without much of a challenge …if he doesn’t feel the need to withdraw his name first.

Meanwhile, the Farm Bill is up for renewal next year and understandably, there’s quite a bit of anxiety about what that’s going to look like. Food and ag policy people have already been discussing what the new Farm Bill might look like.
Civil Eats covered a discussion hosted by AGree and this is what was said about SNAP:

Another key topic of conversation was the future of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or the food stamp program. SNAP and other nutrition programs are funded through the Farm Bill, and account for about 75 percent of the Bill’s spending (in 2016, nutrition programs accounted for around 89 billion of mandatory federal spending).

Republican legislators have in the past proposed removing SNAP from the Farm Bill and converting it to a block grant, which would allocate its administration to the states. Anti-hunger advocates have argued that block-granting the program would result in cuts, as the program would have less ability to respond to emergency situations.

Several participants at the AGree event seemed confident that the SNAP program wouldn’t experience major cuts, let alone block-granting. “Anyone who thinks we’re going to get a Farm Bill by separating [commodity and nutrition programs] is full of baloney,” said Yoder, an Ohio farmer. “It’s not going to happen.”

Jerry Hagstrom, a veteran agriculture journalist, echoed this sentiment. He said that from what he’s seen, there is “complete unity” among agriculture and trade groups that nutrition and commodity programs should remain together in the 2018 Farm Bill.

But Eric Mitchell, from the anti-hunger advocacy organization Bread for the World, was more skeptical. He encouraged the audience to consider political forces beyond the food and agriculture industry. He expressed concern that the Republican Congress might still pursue block-granting SNAP even against the wishes of agriculture groups. Several powerful Republicans have supported a move to block grants, including House Agriculture Committee chair Mike Conaway and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The last Farm Bill process was paralyzed for over a year by political debates surrounding possible cuts to SNAP. Those debates were in large part responsible for the delayed passage of the Bill, which was two years overdue when it was eventually signed in early 2014.

I’m with Eric Mitchell on this. Not to sound dramatic but Paul Ryan is a formidable enemy of poor people and the programs that help them. I fully believe he & others will work hard to move SNAP to block grants and at this point, I can’t be sure he won’t succeed with that.

At this Food Tank  Summit event, Rep Chellie Pingree from Maine laid out what she thought the Farm Bill could look like.  About 2:30 in, Pingree starts discussing food insecurity and SNAP policies. Again, I think it’s highly optimistic to think this is an issue both parties will work together on. There are members of the GOP who can be presented with all the information that shows the different ways hunger in America looks like and disputing poverty as a moral failing and they still won’t try to do the right thing.


New bill aims at eliminating food deserts in Minnesota – the bill expands mobile pantries and asks for funding for more grocery stores and farmers markets ,too.


That’s all for now. I haven’t done one of these news wrap ups in awhile and I definitely missed a lot. I’ll have to aim to let less time pass between these types of posts.

Today’s song of the day… “Do You Still Love Me?” by Ryan Adams, for no other reason than this new album is being played heavily in my house this week.

Food Stamp News: SNAP Cuts Explained & Michigan’s new drug testing policy

SNAP

A few weeks ago, you might have picked up on my annoyance at having to debunk rumors regarding food stamp policy changes and sensationalized articles about food assistance cuts. From now on, I will regularly write here about new policy changes and upcoming cuts that will affect those on assistance. I’ll try to make it as simplified as possible while giving a complete rundown of the correct information.

FIRST… let’s talk about cuts to SNAP but let me start with touching on the passage of The Farm Bill last year.

The SNAP program budget is part of the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill is typically renewed every five years. In 2014, it took awhile to renew , in part because of disagreement over the SNAP budget. Republicans wanted drastic cuts. In the end, $8.6 billion was cut. Those cuts span the next decade, not all at once. With passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, the SNAP budget is in place until the next time Farm Bill is renewed. This means Congress will not be making MORE cuts to SNAP until that time.

I say all of this because on my own social media, I am constantly seeing people talking about Congress trying to make more cuts to food stamps. The other day,for example, an article from February of 2014 talking about Republicans proposing $39 billion more cuts to SNAP made the rounds. My request to all Liberals who use social media (especially managing Facebook pages) to please,please,please check the dates on articles, as well as fact check the information. You might not understand this but it causes a lot of panic among people who rely on assistance. Don’t make people worry more than they have to. Also don’t use the topic of food insecurity as the only means you have to demonize Republicans. I’m sure there are plenty of other current events that will illustrate this as effectively.

The good news about the major cuts in 2014 is that only 15 states will likely be affected , thanks to the “heat and eat” loophole.

This brings me to current headlines:

♦ One Million Will Lose Food Stamps
In 2016, some states will revert to the 1996 Welfare Reform Act that puts limits on how long an unemployed person without dependent children can receive food stamps, usually only three months. Some states already have this policy in place.

The other part of this is that some states that qualified for waivers because unemployment rates were high in some areas without enough jobs to match the employment needs are now seeing an upswing in the economy and will lose those waivers, meaning less people will qualify for enrollment.

Michigan’s New Drug Testing Policy

Even though other states who have tried instating a drug testing policy for all recipients of assistance have proven it to be a giant waste of money and time (as well as unconstitutional), Michigan has launched a pilot program in 3 counties that will test people “under suspicion”. Michigan actually tried this legislation before in 1999 and it was ruled unconstitutional.
I am anti-drug testing all the way around but this legislation has me particularly peeved. Suspicion based? What qualifies someone as being suspect? I can’t help but predict racial stigmas will come into play heavily here.

Right now, this policy is NOT for SNAP recipients as has been widely stated. Only recipients of TANF (cash benefits) in The Family Independence Program will be subjected to testing.