Action Alert

Fight for SNAP

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program keeps food on the plates of America’s children and their families.

Fight for SNAP

On Friday, May 18, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a sweeping $867 billion farm bill, due to an ongoing fight on immigration. The farm bill was also rejected out of opposition to the work requirements sought in the food stamps program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation’s largest anti-hunger program.

The Farm Bill is the primary legislation authorizing the U.S. government's agriculture and nutrition assistance programs. SNAP, the largest budget item in the Farm Bill, plays a critical part in the food system. It serves as a safeguard that protects families from the consequences of poverty and hunger. It includes funding for rural development and provides subsidies to farmers, allowing smaller, family-owned farms to stay in business, as well as supports efforts to address food insecurity. Cuts to SNAP would be devastating for hungry families.

An effective farm bill feeds hungry Americans, builds healthier diets, supports family farmers and reduces farm pollution. Since 2000, farm bills have made efforts to streamline the eligibility process for SNAP and piloted programs to connect recipients with job training programs. It greatly expanded the program and increased the number of recipients. However, the 2018 Farm Bill would allow for more deep cuts and harsher work requirements proposed to SNAP which will cause millions of people to be cut off the program, thus resulting them in a cycle of poverty.

Impact on Families

The House version of the Farm Bill would cut off critical food assistance to millions, putting the short- and long-term health, education and employment outcomes for children and families at an enormous risk. More than two-thirds of the children on SNAP are school-aged, and these proposals could be harmful for them. Not only will this mean less food on the table at home, but many school aged children receive school meal eligibility through their family's SNAP participation status. The proposed bill could cause as many as 265,000 students to lose access to free meals at school.

In 2017, the Agriculture Department estimated that there were 2.9 million unemployed, childless SNAP recipients. There are currently about 42 million Americans living below the poverty line, almost half of whom are children, who rely on SNAP to purchase food. It is expected that roughly two million would be pushed off the rolls altogether, or see reductions. According to Vox, there are some investments in the benefits, with funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program, which would double SNAP benefits when buying fruits and vegetables. But those improvements largely are in comparison to the cuts low-income families would experience.

The Farm Bill draft also eliminates Supplemental Security Income (SSI) participation as a consideration for Categorical Eligibility, as well as certain types of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Language in the draft expands the population subject to work requirements to include caretakers of children over 6 and people between the ages of 50 to 59, establishes tighter timeframes for participants to find work or job training programs, and imposes more severe penalties for those who are unable to do so. The bill would limit the ability of states to waive these requirements, and those who violate the requirements would be cut off from benefits for an entire year, and if those who repeatedly violate the requirements, could be cut off from benefits for up to three years. These changes to SNAP would especially impact low-income people.

There is evidence that nutrition assistance has value over the longer term. In the 1960s, when SNAP's predecessor, the Food Stamp Program, was new and being phased in, researchers compared communities that were already receiving food stamps with comparable ones that were not. Decades later, adults who had received food stamps as children were significantly more likely to be in good health.

Impact on Women

Households headed by women are disproportionately represented among those who receive SNAP benefits. Women make up more than 80 percent of single parents in the United States, and households headed by women are far more likely than those headed by men to struggle with poverty. According to Abby J. Leibman, president and CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, those most affected by the harsh proposals in the Farm Bill will be women-specifically single mothers.

African American households are disproportionately affected by food insecurity; nearly 22.5 percent, were food insecure in 2016. Research shows that many black families who lack the income or resources necessary to maintain a healthy diet or gain access to food. Participation in SNAP has proven to lower the risk of food insecurity. Food insecurity can lead to physical and mental health problems and can adversely affect a child's ability to learn and perform in school, leading to lifelong repercussions.

Food insecurity can particularly cause health complications when it coincides with a woman's pregnancy. Pregnant women are food insecure, are at a heightened risk of depression and gestational diabetes. An infant exposed to food insecurity in utero is more likely to experience negative health outcomes. According to the Center for American Progress, access to SNAP in utero and in early childhood helps to reduce infant mortality and the likelihood of low birth weight. Not only does SNAP help to protect against negative health outcomes for mothers and infants, it also yields significant dividends for participants in the long term.

Environmental Impact

According to Hartford City News Times, farmers have expressed their frustration over partisan maneuvering that their arguing distracts from the original purpose of the bill-to assist farmers affected by price fluctuations, drought, flooding, wildfire or other natural disasters. The National Farmers Union (NFU), the nation's second largest general farm organization, also opposes the legislation, noting that it fails to provide an adequate safety net to family farmers and consumers, fails to support the long-term sustainability of family farms and ranches and fails to ensure fair and diverse markets for farmers and ranchers. Fourteen percent of American farmers are women. The current version of the farm bill cuts $5 billion from these programs over the next decade and it eliminates the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). CSP helps agricultural producers maintain and improve their existing conservation systems. It also creates incentives for landowners to make more impactful investments across their farms and ranches which has a more of a positive difference for wildlife, soil and water resources.

A portion of its funds would be shifted to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which is described as a menu of small conservation projects from which local farmers can choose specific options to improve their land. However, CSP is said to be much stronger than EQIP. "The CSP is overwhelmingly popular with farmers for its ability to improve the health of the land's soil, water, and profitability. Its elimination means fewer options for voluntary conservation, more pollution, and less resilient farms and ranches. It [EQIP] sets back the evolution of farm bill conservation by decades," said Sarah Hackney, grassroots director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

According to the Center for American Progress, the House Farm Bill would pose a threat to the health of national forests that provide clean water for 180 million people, hold billions of dollars in timber and other natural resources and anchor the $887 billion outdoor recreation economy for many communities. The proposed legislation includes various provisions that would weaken key environmental laws and place industry interests ahead of public health, clean air and clean water. A provision would exempt farmers from securing permits required under the Clean Water Act, one of the nation's most important tools to protect public health, when applying pesticides on and around water sources, even those used for drinking water by communities downstream.

A farm bill that protects SNAP-America's domestic hunger safety net-means not having to choose between food and other expenses. A farm bill that supports healthy farm conservation is vital to maintain wildlife and environmental benefits.

 

Posted or updated: 5/15/2018 12:00:00 AM
 
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Take Action

Tell Congress you support SNAP!
The first version the House bill has failed, but IT’S NOT OVER! House leadership may bring the bill back up as a new piece of legislation, likely in June after the week-long Memorial Day recess. The Senate has not released its own legislative text yet, but is expected to move a farm bill later this summer.

Take action to oppose the Farm Bill now!

CONTACT your local congressional representative at the Capital Switchboard (202-224-3121) or schedule a visit to their district office and urge their support of legislation that will strengthen the integrity and efficiency of food and nutrition programs to better serve vulnerable Americans. Encourage lawmakers to view the 2018 Farm Bill reauthorization as an opportunity to tell Congress to stand up for the hungry and to ensure that low income and food insecure children and families have enough to eat.

SAY NO TO:
H.R.2 - Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018:
A bill that is to provide for the reform and continuation of agricultural and other programs of the Department of Agriculture through fiscal year 2023 and for other purposes.

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