Tell Congress: Fight for Farmers & Healthy Food in the Farm Bill

Photo: USDA

From farm to fork, our food system should be something we are proud of, one that supports farmers, makes healthy food available for everyone, and protects the environment we all depend upon. The farm bill—a large, multifaceted piece of legislation due to be renewed by Congress this year—offers a chance to achieve such a food system. With nearly $1 trillion in investments, the bill affects all parts of our food system: what farmers grow and how they grow it, the price of food and who can afford it, and more, with huge implications for our health, our economy, social justice, and the environment. But there are ominous new developments from Congress and the Trump administration about the shape of the next farm bill, and with the clock ticking toward the current bill’s expiration on September 30, 2018, the time for action is now.

On April 18, the House Agriculture Committee passed a farm bill proposal—H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018—that contains some deeply troubling provisions. In particular, the bill attacks the largest budget item in the farm bill: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), which helps individuals and families put food on their tables in hard times. In 2016, the program lifted 3.6 million people out of poverty and provided many with temporary assistance between jobs or during times of crisis, and it acts as an economic stimulus during downturns. Research shows that SNAP works, and it’s a smart investment in the nation’s health and well-being.

Despite these benefits, H.R. 2 would make drastic changes, piling on short-sighted and draconian new work requirements that disregard the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s own ample evidence of SNAP’s success. Already, among SNAP households with at least one working-age, non-disabled adult, more than half work while receiving SNAP benefits—and because many workers turn to SNAP when they are between jobs, more than 80 percent work in the year before or after receiving benefits. Moreover, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that securing a job within the narrow timeframe established by H.R. 2 is an unattainable goal for most. These new work requirements won’t do anything to address the root causes of poverty, and they would effectively remove access to a critical safety net for many vulnerable people.

H.R. 2 advanced out of the House Agriculture Committee on a party-line vote, with all 26 Republicans voting for it and all 20 Democrats voting against it.

But it’s not too late to change the farm bill’s course. By mid-May, the full House is expected to take up H.R. 2, with the possibility of amending it before a final vote. And the Senate has yet to introduce an alternative proposal. UCS is working to ensure that members of Congress in both houses reject a SNAP overhaul, and instead take meaningful action to help low-income individuals and families, while also giving a boost to small and midsize farmers. That’s the intent of the Local Food and Regional Market Supply (Local FARMS) Act, a bipartisan proposal that could still be incorporated into the farm bill. Its provisions would expand markets for local farmers and make healthy food more affordable and accessible.

Call on Congress today to preserve what works and build on it in this year’s farm bill.

Call your members of Congress today and ask them to push for smart local food policies and defend SNAP from changes that would make it more difficult for people to access the program. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the House office you request: 202-224-3121.

Call script:

Hi my name is [NAME] and I’m a constituent from [CITY, STATE]. My zip code is [ZIP]. I’m calling to ask [MEMBER OF CONGRESS] about the draft House farm bill. As written, the bill makes unacceptable cuts and changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that would increase food insecurity for millions of individuals. The bill also fails to take advantage of local food programs that would expand markets for local farmers. Please reject any changes to SNAP and support Local FARMS Act programs. Thank you.

Did you make a call?

Thank you for taking action! Please let us know how it went, so we can highlight the impact that UCS supporters like you are having! It only takes a minute to fill out the survey—your input is greatly appreciated!

Take Further Action:

Once you’ve called your representatives to demand that they defend SNAP and support local foods, send them an email message. TAKE ACTION: Fight for Farmers and Healthy Food in the Farm Bill!

You can also increase pressure on your Member of Congress to support SNAP and Local FARMS Act programs by writing a letter to the editor (LTE) of your local paper. LTEs are short and to-the-point – around 200 words – and are a great way to get a message out to the public. Key points are below to help you get started, and you can also learn more about how to write a successful letter to the editor.

Please let us know if you’ve submitted an LTE, and how it went, so we can measure our impact!

SNAP Key Points:

  • H.R. 2, the House farm bill proposal, overhauls the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—formerly known as food stamps—by adding short-sighted and draconian new work requirements. H.R. 2 disregards the USDA’s own ample evidence of SNAP’s success and would effectively remove access to a critical safety net for many vulnerable people
  • Research shows that SNAP works. In 2016, the program lifted 3.6 million people out of poverty, many of whom are children. SNAP participation also reduces food insecurity rates for children and adults by up to 30 percent. (UCS Policy Brief)
  • H.R. 2 bill adds new work requirements for older participants and changes the way work requirements are enforced. Existing work requirements are already stringent, and these new proposals are likely to increase administrative costs, which now are exceptionally low – less than seven percent of all program expenses.
  • Because many workers turn to SNAP when they are between jobs, more than 80 percent work in the year before or after receiving SNAP, showing that the program overwhelmingly supports workers between jobs.
  • SNAP benefits also act as an economic stimulus to support food producers, manufacturers, and other industries. USDA models show that each $1 in SNAP benefits generates about $1.80 in economic activity.
  • I urge Representative [NAME] to reject any changes to SNAP funding or eligibility in H.R. 2

Local FARMS Act Key Points:

  • The Local Food and Regional Market Supply (Local FARMS) Act is a bipartisan proposal meant to chip away at the 15.6 million US households that lack adequate access to healthy food while helping small and midsize farmers.
  • H.R. 2, as passed by the House Agriculture Committee, failed to take on board the Local FARMS Act, missing an opportunity to create jobs, establish reliable revenue streams for farmers, and increase access to healthy and affordable food, especially for low-income families.
  • Members of the full House could still vote to amend H.R. 2 to include Local FARMS Act provisions, including the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program and the Value-Added Producer Grant program, thus investing in programs and infrastructure to better connect farmers to local buyers.
  • I urge Rep [NAME] to support amending H.R. 2 to include smart local foods policies.

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