On May 8-9th, 2018, Food Policy Action (FPA) is mobilizing stakeholders from across the United States to voice their united opposition to the draft 2018 Farm Bill released by the House Agriculture Committee.
Advocates have a narrow window in which to convince House members that supporting a Farm Bill that cuts support for SNAP, small farmers, and the working class is not only irresponsible but will lose them support at the ballot box, says FPA executive director Monica Mills. “We are already doing a dismal job providing support for new, young, and small farmers, and this bill is going to be incredibly harmful to rural economies if it eliminates what programs we do have. And the changes to SNAP feel like we’re waging war on the poor,” she told Food Tank.
Broad-based opposition to the draft Farm Bill is mounting, with more than 350 organizations and industry groups joining an opposition letter. FPA is working to bolster the effort by bringing constituents themselves to the halls of Washington, D.C. to put faces to each critical line item in the omnibus, trillion-dollar bill.
“We are bringing in women farmers who are looking to have a more balanced farm bill, we’re bringing in chefs from all around the country who want to see support for nutrition, and we’re bringing in faculty and law students from the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic and other members of the Farm Bill Law Enterprise.” explains Mills. “Through our lobby days, we plan to protect SNAP, to protect conservation programs, and to protect the local and regional food programs that help support local farmers markets, farm to school programs, and farm to table initiatives.”
For constituents who cannot make it to Washington, D.C. in person, FPA will be hosting a “virtual lobby day” to help voters reach their elected representatives. “We will have ways for you to get involved and send a message to your own member of Congress through foodpolicyaction.org,” says Mills. “We want you to be a part of our lobby day even if you aren’t here!”
There is a lot at stake in the 2018 Farm Bill negotiations. The largest proposed cuts would be to the SNAP program, formerly known as “food stamps.” Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, argues that these cuts would “increase hunger, foster poorer nutrition, and further increase health inequity in our nation,” while Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, calls them “deeply concerning because they potentially cut millions of Americans out of these benefits, putting their health in jeopardy.” The staff of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, cautions that the bill’s proposed “sweeping, aggressive new work requirements” for SNAP recipients “would likely prove unworkable and do substantially more harm than good, fueling increases in hunger and poverty.”
The Bill also makes major cuts to farmer-support programs, including eliminating all funding for a number of small, innovative programs that support small and sustainable farmers as well as all funding for the country’s largest conservation program, the Conservation Stewardship Program. In response, the Board of the National Farmers Union, which represents nearly 200,000 family farmers, ranchers, and rural members, has passed a resolution opposing the bill. Tara Ritter, a senior program associate at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, writes, “This draft Farm Bill insults all the work farmers and advocates have been undertaking to advance sustainable agriculture. Funding is proposed to be cut or completely eliminated for many programs that small farmers, organic farmers, and business owners need to thrive.”
“The proposals within the House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill are trying to fix things that aren’t problems. And they’re doing it with a very heavy hand instead of being measured in their approach,” says Mills. “This version of a farm bill is a non-starter.”
FPA will spend its lobby days pushing for “a more fair assessment of what is needed in SNAP, better protection for our conservation programs, support for the health of our consumers and our farmworkers, and more support for local and regional food systems,” says Mills.
“The way the system is set up, right now a tomato costs more than a package of cookies at the gas station. That’s just not right. Good, healthy, safe food should be affordable to everyone, no matter what your ZIP code is. We really need to look at what we are investing in through the Farm Bill and ask: Is this actually good for our health? Are we really making sure that our food is safe? Are we making sure that good food is available to everyone, not just the wealthy?”