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Families Protecting the Valley Newsletter 12/10/12
The Food Stamp Bill
In the editorial below, the Sacramento Bee/Fresno Bee argue that Congress needs to pass a new 5-year farm bill by the end of the year. We realistically believe some form of this bill will pass, not because of farmers, but because of the poor. For our part, we just wish they would change the name to something more in line with what the farm bill has become, namely, the food stamp bill. 80% of the farm bill is related to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps.

Did you know last year the food stamp program spent $7.4 billion more than it did the year before? It has gone from spending $18-billion in 2000 to $78-billion last year. The United States spends an unbelievable amount of money trying to manage poverty, and yet the more we spend the more poverty spreads. And, we are not spreading self-reliance, which used to be a virtue, but instead are spreading government-reliance. In the past four years the number of Americans receiving food stamps has doubled from 23-million to 46-million.

We didn't understand the government's enthusiasm for 'spreading it around' until we saw Secretary of Ag Tom Vilsack's comment that "I should point out that when you talk about the snap program or the food stamp program, you have to recognize that it’s also an economic stimulus. Every dollar of snap benefits generates $1.84 in the economy in terms of economic activity. If people are able to buy a little more in the grocery store, then someone has to stock it, shelve it, process it, package it, ship it. All of those are jobs. It’s the most direct stimulus you can get in the economy during these tough times."

Must be the new math. Can't wait until we have 100-million people on food stamps. The economy will be roaring.

The total cost of the farm bill is about $100-billion a year. It irritates us to some degree that the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture advertises for people to get on the food stamp program. Click
here to listen to the ads and learn how much fun it is to get food stamps. The cost of advertising is part of the farm bill.


Editorial: Congress needs to act on new five-year farm bill by year's end

Farmers in California, the nation's No. 1 farm state, need a predictable safety net. And all of us have an interest in adequate nutrition, as well as conservation programs and other land policies that minimize the effects of floods, drought and erosion.

Unfortunately, the nation's five-year farm bill expired on Sept. 30 because House Republican leaders failed to bring a new bill to the House floor for a vote.

It is not too late, however.

The Senate passed a bipartisan five-year farm bill through 2017 on a 64-35 vote in June. And there is bipartisan support on the House Agriculture Committee for a new five-year bill.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the four leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees met on Thursday. All agreed that Congress should pass a five-year farm bill by Dec. 31.

Some Republicans, however, have suggested a yearlong extension of the old farm bill. But that makes no sense when Congress and the president are looking for ways to cut the deficit. Extending the 2008 law would not garner savings. That's a nonstarter.

Passing a bipartisan farm bill that reduces the deficit by $23 billion – as the Senate bill would do – would help in any deal to avert the looming "fiscal cliff."

Doing nothing is not a realistic option. While funding for some programs already has come to an end – such as new enrollment of acreage in the conservation reserve program – the real problem comes when policies from the 1930s and 1940s kick in starting Dec. 31.

As House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas told Progressive Farmer magazine, "Reverting back to an antiquated system that is permanent law is not responsible and not acceptable."

The first big change is that U.S. dairy policy reverts to 1949. As the nation's leading dairy state – No. 1 in production of fluid milk, butter and nonfat dry milk, No. 2 in cheese production – we have a big stake in this. Expiration of key dairy programs comes at a time when dairy farms everywhere, including California, are reeling from the nation's drought, which has driven up feed prices. In California, some farmers can't afford to feed their cows.

Then comes wheat policy and so on.

Above all, farmers need certainty and stability. The lame duck session of Congress needs to approve the farm bill.

Outgoing Rep. Joe Baca, D-San Bernardino, who serves on the House Agriculture Committee, should make the farm bill his swan song before he leaves office. From a district hit hard by unemployment, he knows the value of food stamps in keeping families out of poverty. He's been a fighter against draconian cuts to the food stamp program, calling proposed House Republican cuts of $16 billion "unacceptable."

Baca's aim should be to get food stamp cuts in line with Senate levels of $4 billion.

And Californians should contact one of California's own, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, and urge him to persuade Speaker John Boehner to bring the already passed Senate farm bill (S. 3240) to the House floor for an up or down vote.

If the Senate bill passes in the House, everything's good. If it doesn't, then Democrats and Republicans will need to negotiate in earnest to get a new five-year farm bill done by year's end.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, who will serve on the House Agriculture Committee when the new session begins in January, has called this one right.

"Do it for five years and go home," he told The Bee's editorial board. "Why fight it more times than you need to?" Why, indeed? The 28-day count to year's end begins.

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