The 2012 Farm Bill & Feeding America

Should Big Ag Farm subsidies be paired with Feeding America?

Our current food system is plagued by decades of bad food policy that was designed to benefit big business agriculture.  Current food policy has done little for small farmers, rural communities, public health and food assistance.  This September (2012) the current Farm Bill is up for renewal and will be in place for the next five years.  It  will have a long-term effect for those who need food assistance, and comes at a time when the need is increasing due to high unemployment and a lack of opportunity for upward mobility.

Of the funding for the farm bill, 70% goes to America’s nationwide food assistance program called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).  The SNAP program helped to reduce poverty by almost 10% in 2009.  In 2011, there were nearly 50 million people, including over 16 million children in the U.S. that required food assistance.  That includes 20% of those who were unemployed six months or more.   Overall, the SNAP program has aided 44.7 million (1 in 7) americans – the majority of which are children, seniors, and those with disabilities.

On June 4th, an open letter was sent to every member of Congress by food movement leaders including Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, Dan Imhoff and Celebrity Chef Mario Batali.  The letter was initiated by the Environmental Working Group and states that the Farm Bill should make the availability of nutritious, healthy, affordable food a priority on the 2012 Farm Bill.  As it stands, $36 Million was cut from the bill by Congress during the May 10th vote, which devastates low-income families.  According to a statement made by Feeding America‘s President and CEO Vicki Escarra: “(t)his vote is a wrongful departure from Washington’s historic bipartisan commitment to protecting low-income safety net programs during deficit reduction efforts.”

SNAP funding needs to be at least maintained in order to end childhood hunger by 2015.  The USDA defines ‘food security’ as all individuals having access “at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life”, in other words- to thrive.  Brookings Institution analyst Ron Haskins testified during the House subcommittee hearings and stated that “the average income (not counting the SNAP benefit) of families receiving SNAP is less than $9,000 per year.”  In 2011, qualifying households received an average of $284 per month in food assistance, which is only $71 a week to share between two or more people.  That’s hardly enough to meet daily nutritional requirements.  Recent studies show that most Americans support doubling SNAP benefits for those who qualify.

According to Patty Lovera of Food and Water Watch:

 “The Senate committee version of the bill fails to protect farmers and consumers from the monopoly power in the food supply – the tiny number of giant meatpackers, food processors and retailers that drive down prices for farmers and reduce choices for consumers.”  More than 50% of farm subsidies go to farmers making over $100,000 annual income.

Other important components of the Farm Bill that affect many Americans include continued access to healthy foods for Senior Citizens, more financial assistance for food banks, promoting better eating habits for school children and promoting community food projects that help increase access to food.

The bill will be voted on in the next couple of weeks by the Senate.  The bill can still be amended on the Senate floor.

The bill will be voted on in the next couple of weeks by the Senate.  The bill can still be amended on the Senate floor.

Get Involved – Take Action!

Contact your Senators and demand a fair Farm Bill that protects farmers & consumers

Check your state’s hunger statistics on this interactive map.  The map shows that children are at risk of hunger in every county in the U.S. 

Take the Hunger Quiz



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