Monday, August 20, 2012

Who’s Interested in the Farm Bill?

Even though many people may not be particularly interested in the Farm Bill pending in the U.S. Congress, it is a very important matter that deserves the attention of all citizens.
Robert Gronski, the policy coordinator for the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, explains: “The Farm Bill has a profound impact on farming and nutrition. Three key things the multi-faced bill provides are: a safety net for farmers, incentives for conservation practices, and food assistance for low-income families” (Sojournersmagazine, August 2012).
I didn’t realize until I read Gronski’s article that “nearly 80 percent of the bill’s roughly $100 billion a year in spending goes to the food-assistance category, most notably to food stamps—the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP], which now helps feed 46 million people in the U.S.
Some Congresspersons, though, want to cut the funding of the farm bill, especially the amount earmarked for SNAP. Why was I not surprised to hear that?
The Republican-dominated House of Representatives has refused to pass the bill, although the Senate passed it back in June. Earlier this month, soon after Representative Paul Ryan was named as Romney’s choice for the Vice-President nomination, the President was in Iowa, and he chided Rep. Ryan for failing to vote for the farm bill.
On the Friday after the primary election, Claire McCaskill, U.S. Senator from Missouri, and U.S. Representative Todd Akin, who is seeking her Senate seat in November, met in Jefferson City where they both spoke to the Missouri Farm Bureau. When Rep. Akin was asked by a farmer why he has opposed the farm bill, which he also did not vote for in 2002 or 2007, he explained that the majority of the spending in the legislation goes to food stamps and other entitlement programs.
The current farm bill ends on September 30, and the House will likely not approve a new one before then. Many Representatives, such as Rep. Akin and especially those affiliated with the Tea Party, insist on substantial cuts to SNAP, even though that would deprive many people of necessary nutrition.
As do most conservative Republicans, Rep. Akins, who is a seminary graduate and an active churchman, says that it is up to individuals and churches to help the poor, not the government. But I wonder, would it even be possible for individuals and churches to do all that is necessary for all those in need?
For example, consider my home county, Worth County, Missouri, with a population of 2,150. (Yes, it’s a very small county.) There are now about 350 people in the county living below the poverty line. I assume that most of those get help from SNAP (food stamps). If the farm bill is not passed, or drastically cut as most Republicans seem to wish, will the churches of Worth County and other people of good will have the means to step in and provide assistance to those who need it?
Probably not.
Since it is such an important piece of legislation, affecting so many farmers and especially low-income people all across the nation, shouldn’t those of us who live in this country contact our Representatives and urge them to for vote the Farm Bill?


  1. Thanks for shedding light on a serious situation. The stale mate in Congress which is keeping the Farm Bill from passing is just another illustration that Steve Kraske and Chris Helling wrote about in their very fine front page story in the KC Star yesterday.

    I don't think it's too soon or too serious to say that conservative and Tea Party Republicans (if there's a differerence!) have begun to hijack our country. It's becoming insider terrorism. What's the real difference between Congress denying millions access to nutrition and al Queida contaminating some of the food supply?

  2. What a difference a day makes! The election has moved on to words like "legitimate" and "skinny-dip" and Congressman Akin is right in the middle of it! Whether this will help or hurt the farm bill and food stamps is an unknown.

    There are two basic ways to solve complex problems. One is to think about them and chose. The other is to live out the problem, and hope to discover the answer. Our founding fathers did much of both. Since then we have mostly done the second. So right now, whether it is the top priority or not, we are moving a little forward on the issue of bizarre sexual hang-ups. And Missouri and Kansas are leading the way!

    The farm bill is a living heritage of the days of compromise: something for rural farmers, and something for mostly urban poor. Now one party has decided to blow up that tradition. Other than the fact that people may well die in the process, it should be interesting to see how this works out. Yet this is how we learn, one dead body after another, as we slowly learn, and sometimes even improve. Sometimes we forget, and have to start over, like when we blocked Vietnam from our minds as we planned the invasion of Iraq a few years ago. This is our choice, do our homework, or learn the hard way.

  3. My Thinking Friend in California, who often sends comments by e-mail, wrote:

    "I too feel we should Pass the Farm Bill even if 80% goes to help support the poor.

    "I don`t object to some of the taxes I pay to go to help the Poor&Needy.

    "My Only concern is the Fraud and Dishonesty in Any Government program, and I would like to see this cleaned up as Best it could."

    1. I agree, fraud and dishonesty is a problem with many government programs. That is why I was happy to see this Dec. 2012 statement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA):

      "USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon today announced a new range of aggressive tactics to further improve program integrity of USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – formerly known as food stamps. The announcement is part of the Obama Administration's ongoing Campaign to Cut Waste which highlights efforts to root out waste, fraud and abuse so that federal dollars are invested wisely."

  4. And one of my two Thinking Friends in Wisconsin, who also often comment by e-mail, said,

    "Thanks again Leroy. The farmers around here supported [Gov.] Walker because they had a lot of money come in from state and federal monies, interesting…."

  5. I get speechless at times when contemplating American's utter lack of compassion for the poor. In my view, the current Republican Party of the U.S. is one of the most irresponsible, if not also corrupt, parties . . . uh . . . well, ever, at least in this country.