|The Missouri Association for Social Welfare (MASW) headquartered in Jefferson City has expressed concern for the estimated 850,000 U.S. households who will have an average of $90 less per month for food due to provisions of the Farm Bill signed into law by President Barack Obama yesterday (Feb. 7, 2014).
Jeanette Mott Oxford, executive director of MASW, said, “While hungry families in Missouri will see little change, the deep cuts in other states cause us sorrow.” The new law calls for a reduction of $8.6 billion to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps) over 10 years by increasing the threshold at which persons receiving the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) may receive SNAP benefits. Missouri has not opted to use this option, often abbreviated as “heat and eat.” Missouri SNAP recipients had already seen a reduction of about $36 per month for a family of four when additional federal cuts went into effect on Nov. 1, 2013.
“We fear the cuts in the Farm Bill are more evidence that our state and national leaders are not taking the problem of hunger seriously enough,” Oxford added. “One out of four families with children in Missouri currently face food insecurity. This demand the attention and commitment of all of us.”
MASW does celebrate that social justice advocates were able to win many positive changes in the Farm Bill as it went through the legislative process. Among these were:
- Reduction of cuts from almost $40 billion over 10 years down to the $8.6 billion cut to SNAP in the final version.
- Elimination of aid to some able-bodied adults without dependents, simply because they cannot find work in a struggling economy.
- Restoration at a national lifetime ban on SNAP receipt for convicted drug felons, even after they serve their time and return to society. The ban was part of the 1996 federal welfare reform law, but most states have now sought waivers to end the ban in total or in part.
Oxford concluded, “We were glad to see rejection of the return of the national lifetime ban on SNAP receipt for ex-offenders who have paid their debt to society. Missouri has the opportunity to join the 40 other states who have ended this senseless and cruel ban by passing House Bill 1589 or SB 680 this year. We strongly support this legislation.” HB 1589 will be heard by the House Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities on Tuesday, February 11.
Senators support and non-support
U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), who serves as the Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, issued the following statement applauding the Senate passage of S.R. 2642, the Farm Bill:
“For two long years, our nation’s farm families and rural communities have waited for a Farm Bill. While this may not be the best possible bill – it’s the best bill possible right now. Programs in this bill touch the lives of every American, in every community, in every state. We must provide much-needed certainty for our nation’s farmers and ranchers so that they can continue to work each and every day to feed the country and the world.”
Agriculture is the number one industry in Missouri, and it’s directly responsible for roughly 16 percent of the state’s workforce. Across America, agriculture supports more than 16 million jobs.
Representing Kansas farmers and ranchers, U.S. Senator Pat Roberts,senior member and former Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, as well as the entire House delegation from Kansas voted against the 2014 Farm Bill claiming "it goes backwards towards protectionist subsidy programs, instead of forward with innovative and responsible solutions for producers and the taxpayer.
"I call it a look in the rear view mirror," Roberts said. "I understand that compromises were made, but I cannot support a bill that marches backwards towards producers making decisions based off of government subsidies, retaliation against our livestock producers and once again agriculture taking a disproportionate cut in spending compared to federal nutrition programs."
While admitting that most Kansas producers were fully aware that direct payments for crop insurance would no longer be available to them and that they were okay with that, they did not ask for a continuation of a target price subsidy program and they did not want Congress to raise the target prices of all commodities, essentially telling producers which crops to plant.