Posts Tagged ‘SNAP’

New Farm Bill, Can You Say “Finally”

A pie about the Farm Bill circa 2014.

The House-Senate Conference Committee has approved the new farm bill.   This synopsis was obviously written by a Republican but read it anyhow.   This one’s good for five years.   We’ll see what it does and doesn’t do for us.  After two years of wrangling about it you would think it would be a monument to statesmanship, compromise and progress.   It most likely is not.   And no matter what it actually contains the proof of what it will actually do for us will be in the rule making and enforcement.

Here is the Associated Press synopsis, I have highlighted the parts I like:

— Test programs in 10 states that would allow new work requirements for food stamp recipients.

— A prohibition on lottery winners, convicted sex offenders and murderers from receiving food stamps.

— The end of so-called direct payments, government subsidies paid to farmers whether they farm or not. The payments now cost around $4.5 billion a year.

— A new revenue insurance subsidy that would pay farmers in the event of “shallow losses,” or revenue losses incurred before their paid crop insurance kicks in. That program might kick in sooner than previously thought as some crop prices have dropped in recent months.

— A separate subsidy program would trigger payments when crop prices drop. This is similar to current subsidies, though the new programs would kick in sooner, especially for rice and peanut producers. Producers would have to choose between these subsidies or the revenue insurance.

Stricter limits on how much money an individual farmer can receive — $125,000 annually on all payments and loans, when some were previously unrestricted. The agreement is less strict than either the House or Senate bills, which had put limits on how much a farmer could receive from individual programs. Language that would limit how many people in a farm operation may receive such payments was also passed by both chambers but taken out of the compromise bill, which would kick the issue to the Agriculture Department.

— An additional $5.7 billion for government-subsidized crop insurance programs. A Senate amendment that would have lowered crop insurance payouts for the wealthiest farmers was struck from the final version.

— A new dairy program that would do away with current price supports and allow farmers to purchase a new kind of insurance that pays out when the gap between the price they receive for milk and their feed costs narrows. The program is designed to help dairy farmers survive price collapses like they have seen in recent years. But it would not include a so-called stabilization program that would have dictated production cuts when oversupply drives down prices. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called that “Soviet-style” and pressured negotiators to take it out. He was backed by large food companies which said the program could raise the price they pay for milk.  (ed. note: but they didn’t, hurrah for them!)

— A new insurance program for cotton growers designed to bring the U.S. industry into compliance with the World Trade Organization. The WTO said in 2009 that Brazil could raise the tariffs on American goods because the United States had failed to get rid of subsidies the WTO said are illegal.

A test program that would allow 10 states to grow industrial hemp. Those 10 states have legalized cultivation but are unable to produce because of current federal law.

— Land payments to Western states. The bill gives the government authority to make payments of $425 million to states which lose tax money because of federal lands, mostly in the West. That funding had expired at the end of last year.

And then there were the real “down in the weeds” bits.  According to the WaPo “Page 881 of the farm bill outlines “Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling of Beef, Pork, Lamb, Chicken, Goat Meat, Wild and Farm-raised Fish and Shellfish, Perishable Agricultural Commodities, Peanuts, Pecans, Ginseng and Macadamia Nuts.”   You really will get to know where your food is coming from.   And that is a good thing.  And “A big deal for the Whole Foods crowd. According to the bill, “The term ‘farm-raised fish’ means any aquatic species that is propagated and reared in a controlled environment.”

But if you just want to read the whole 1000 pages for yourself.   Go for it.


Farm Bill, What Farm Bill?


So, as I’m sure you’ve already heard, Congress failed to pass the Farm Bill yesterday.    No surprise from this “Do Nothing” legislative body.    The Grumpy Old Plutocrats have issued press releases claiming that their only reason for failing to vote for this, usual slam-dunk, bill is to save the American people from the spendthrift ways of the government.    Here are just a few quotes from Rep. Steve King’s  (boy it must really piss Stephen King, the famous left-wing author, off to share a name with this right-wing dweeb)  press release:


‘A major point that is seldom highlighted is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or what is known as food stamps, operates like an entitlement program.  This means it continues on unless Congress acts to change it or improve it. “  and this is a bad thing, why????   And, can I say, I hate the phrase “entitlement program”  it activates the frame of lazy people (read:  Welfare Queens) feeling like the world owes them a living, or feeling “entitled.”

“Although some argue that SNAP should be removed from the farm bill and considered separately, the more compelling argument is that the farm bill, which has an expiration date, allows lawmakers to implement reforms to SNAP every five years.  Otherwise, SNAP functions like other entitlement programs where there are many complaints about their cost and drag on the budget, but action is left to academics and pundits to study and discuss on cable news shows.”   In my blog post “The 1949 Farm Bill Has No SNAP”  I explain why it is important to keep SNAP in the Farm Bill.   There really are a lot of urban people out there who do not get the truth of “No Farms, No Food.”   They see the farm bill as just a handout to rich farmers, which it is in many ways, but it is also the safety net a lot of small farmers need to keep farming.  The “specialty” farmers that produce the fruits and vegetables we all love to eat.

Here is an explanation of the differences between the original Senate and House bills.    Good luck figuring this all out.    I think about all this a fair amount and still find myself confused at times.

And in honor of “World War Z” being released to coincide with this continuing fiasco I refer you to an article in Grist that tries to explain this mess.   He talks about the SNAP cuts that the Repugnants want and the Demobrat’s issues with the majority of subsidies go to already wealthy farmers.

Here in Maine food pantries and dairy farmers are concerned with the continued delays of this bill.   If SNAP gets cut then the food pantries, already strained, will be faced with trying to feed even more people.   The Maine dairy industry may be in a slightly better place because they are making plans to go around the farm bill to help dairy farmers have a more stable pricing structure.

All in all this bill is a cluster f*ck and everyone knows it.    But we also, sadly, have come to expect and accept nothing less from our elected officials in DC.

Home rule is seeming more and more to me to be the only way to go.   Walk away, do our own thing, feed our own people and expect very little from our government, bureaucrats or elected officials.

The 1949 Farm Bill has No SNAP

So I promised to do a little looking into what it would mean if the Farm Bill of 2012 became the Farm Bill of 1949.  And I have.  Let me tell you, it wouldn’t be pretty.  Since the 1949 bill has no provision for the SNAP (food stamps) program the federal funding for that program would disappear.   Not good news in the middle of this Great Recession.  But there is a definite current of opinion that holding up the farm bill is directly linked to trying to cut food support to the poor.

 Milk price supports would also change.  Maine Secretary of Agriculture Walt Whitcomb and a group of dairy farmers from the state have headed to DC to see what can be done.  Here’s the press release, it really doesn’t tell you what they are going to be asking for but at least they are going to try to help Maine dairy farmers somehow, I guess.  On the other hand if the old price supports for milk in the 1949 bill take effect the price for a hundred weight of milk would go from the current $10 to $38.63.  I can’t wrap my head around what that will mean for the price of a gallon of milk but it sure sounds like a windfall for the dairy farmers.

The USDA is taking all this very seriously.  They have several experts working on how to implement a 20th century farm bill in 2013.   They must feel that this do-nothing, obstructionist congress may very well allow this to happen.

And real pessimists are saying that it may all be a ploy by the Grumpy Old Plutocrats to gut farm subsidies even further in their attempts to decrease the deficit and give themselves and their rich friends more tax breaks.  It is yet another chorus in their ongoing song of no more money for that lazy 48%, cut their “entitlements.”

The good news, if there is any, is that current price support programs, and food stamps, are covered until January.  The money is already in the pipeline and so the bottom is not going to fall out from under farmers and those dependent on SNAP until next year.  In the middle of the winter.  As people are trying to stay warm and buy food.  And farmers are trying to plan their next growing season.  Maybe it’s not such good news after all.