It’s been a while since I published any hunger news links. People are still hungry, and we still haven’t figured out how to fix that. In a sense, there is no news there.
But importantly, we’ve been waiting for Congress to pass a new Farm Bill. Both the Senate and House had passed their own versions, but they were far enough apart in some key issues to doubt the ability to reconcile the two versions. This morning comes the announcement of bipartisan agreement to screw hungry people more than Democrats want and less than Republicans want. I guess that’s as good as agreements get these days.
The most recent version of the Farm Bill was passed in 2008, and it was scheduled to be renewed in 2012. Congress couldn’t come to agreement then, except to extend the existing provisions until September 30, 2013.
In case you’re not aware of the Farm Bill’s scope, here are a few of the areas it covers:
- Commodities regulation (commodities crops and dairy, and commodities futures)
- Agricultural trade and international food aid
- Nutrition assistance programs including SNAP (food stamps)
- Agricultural loans and crop insurance
- Forestry service
- Livestock and poultry production
These programs are all administered by the US Department of Agriculture, or USDA. The largest portion of the budget is nutrition support. This covers programs including SNAP (food stamps), school and summer lunches, WIC (Women, Infants, and Children supplemental foods), and others.
Nutrition supports directly benefit the individuals who get to eat, of course. They also benefit retailers, wholesalers, and farm producers. SNAP, the largest part of the largest part, also has direct flow-through as broad economic support. These programs do not hurt the economy; they help individuals, businesses, and the economy broadly.
Now with that background, the news:
According to the New York Times, the negotiated bill
will eliminate or consolidate dozens of agriculture subsidy programs, expand government-subsidized crop insurance and cut about $8 billion from the food stamp program over the next decade.
The House is expected to vote on the measure on Wednesday. It is unclear when the Senate will take up the legislation. Many Senate Democrats are likely to be unhappy with the food stamps measure, which cuts roughly twice as much as senators approved in May.
Yet the food stamp cuts may not be large enough to appease House conservatives, who in June helped defeat a bill backed by Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio that would have cut $20 billion from the program. The House eventually passed a bill covering only nutrition programs that would have sliced nearly $40 billion from food stamps.
Note that both the House and Senate need to approve the legislation, which at this point cannot be amended. Though it is expected that the bill will pass, it’s possible House Republicans will reject it. In that case, it would be back to the drawing board.
Full details of the bill have not been released. However it appears that the majority of cuts to SNAP come from closing loopholes in the way some states calculate benefits based on household utilities costs. Most beneficiaries in those states will still receive benefits but may at a reduced level.
This is far from ideal for those concerned about hunger in America. We shall see the impact if the bill is enacted. More news to come…