As the curator of the NH Labor News social media accounts I get a very deep, inside look at how people think about the issues taken up by the NHLN. Usually I get attacked from the right by anti-union, right-wing zealots who tell me that I just do not understand economics, etc. I am well versed in my responses to them.
This week I was very surprised when I was hearing outrage from the left, over the passage of the Farm Bill. For those who do not know about this particular bill, it is full of subsidies for farmers and food producers. It is also the bill that authorizes the amount of money to be given out by the federal government in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly called food stamps.
The 2013 version of the Farm Bill was passed last summer along party lines and included $40 billion in cuts to the SNAP program. These cuts immediately outraged Democrats including both of the Representatives from my home state, New Hampshire.
Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter on July 11th 2013:
“Traditionally, Congress uses the reauthorization of the Farm Bill to work on a bipartisan basis to create fairer farming policies, a healthier America, and contribute to deficit reduction. Unfortunately, today’s legislation would endanger the health of families and children across New Hampshire by completely removing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from the bill. Each year, SNAP benefits help 120,000 poor and working New Hampshire residents, 70% of whom are families with children, fight hunger. This program is vital to supporting food banks, soup kitchens, and hungry Americans.”
Congresswoman Annie Kuster on July 11th 2013:
“The choice between supporting New Hampshire’s rural economy or funding critical nutrition assistance programs is a fallacy. We can and must do both, and this bill fails to meet that test. I’m deeply dismayed that House leadership is willing to abandon hungry children, veterans, and seniors in New Hampshire and all across the country. It’s wrong and unacceptable.”
“There is no question that Congress needs to pass a comprehensive, bipartisan Farm Bill, but we need to do it the right way. I continue to urge both parties to work toward a compromise that will protect vital nutrition assistance funding, improve conservation and energy programs, and provide long-term certainty for the agricultural community.”
Everyone praised our representatives for taking a stand and opposing these cuts to the SNAP program.
That was July, and now we are in the end of January, and once again the Farm Bill is up for another vote in the US House. The 2014 version of the bill includes $8.6 billion in SNAP benefit cuts. However this time both NH representatives voted for the bill.
CNN reports, “A bipartisan deal on a new farm bill reached earlier this week could trim $90 a month in benefits for 850,000 food stamp recipients, saving the government nearly $1 billion a year.” The question is how much are those people rally going to get after they trim $90 a month off of their benefits? The average benefit in the US is $134 dollars per month. Take away $90 from $134 and you are left with under $50 a month. Not even $2 dollars a day.
The majority of the cuts to the SNAP program are coming from people who live in 16 states. 10 of the 16 states are in the Northeast, spanning from Delaware to Maine.
They say the cuts will close a loophole that gave people more money because they also received home heating oil stipends. They claim, “the spending cuts would not remove anyone from the SNAP program while ensuring that every person receives the benefits they are intended to receive under the rules of the program,” but I do not believe them. You cannot take money away from someone and then say they are still getting the same benefits.
After voting for the Farm Bill it was obvious from Rep Shea-Porter’s statement that this was a very difficult decision for her.
“This bill is far from perfect, but I heard overwhelmingly from Granite State farmers and small businesses that this legislation would help them grow New Hampshire’s economy and put food on our tables. I also heard from anti-hunger advocates who share my deep disappointment in this legislation’s cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and they told me that they support this bill because it would reduce the proposed level of cuts and increase funding for emergency food assistance programs.”
“It is outrageous that this legislation gives away millions of dollars to big agriculture corporations while reducing funding for SNAP. But I supported this bill because the good outweighs the bad.”
Rep Kuster’s statement also highlighted how the bill was not perfect but made no mention to the cuts to SNAP benefits.
“This legislation isn’t perfect, but it is a true compromise that will provide our agricultural producers with the support they need to thrive and continue providing Granite Staters with fresh, nutritious, and safe food.”
Rep Kuster’s statement did highlight how the newest version of the bill would add an additional “$20 million a year to food banks throughout the country”.
While I support both Rep Kuster and Rep Shea-Porter on 90% of their votes, but I have to disagree with them on this vote. We are trading $700 million dollars a year in SNAP cuts for $20 million in food bank donations. This is bad for low-income families, and bad for our economy.
The SNAP program helps 47 million low-income families by providing money to buy food at their local grocery stores. SNAP directly helps the economy as well. Data confirms that for every $1 spent by the government in SNAP benefits generates $1.73 in the local economy. My simple math says that $8 billion in cuts will result in a loss of over 13 billion in the overall economy. SNAP is an investment in our economy, and it almost doubles our returns.
While, I have been an outspoken advocate for stopping these cuts to the SNAP program, I wonder what business industry has to say about these cuts.
“Almost half of all (SNAP) redemptions are in big-box super-centers such as Walmart and Target, according to Bloomberg Industries”. (Bloomberg news)
Walmart alone was reimbursed over $18 billion dollars from the food stamp program last year alone.
CNN is reporting that cuts to the food stamp program last year hurt Walmart’s bottom line. CNN continues:
“The warnings mean the company will report a drop in earnings in the quarter that ends Friday.”
It surprises me that Walmart is not lobbying for more SNAP spending, because it directly pads their pockets. The Farm Bill is full of people lining their pockets, including 10 Republican House members who receive benefits from farm subsidies.
Now we need both of our Senators to stand up for hungry children and Granite Staters, as we are going to be unfairly burdened by the SNAP cuts. Contact your Senator and ask them not to support the Farm Bill if it includes any cuts to hungry children. You can remind them that there are less than 2.5 million retired veterans who would be effected by the $6 billion dollar budget cut they opposed, and there are 47 million hungry families relying on $8 billion dollars in SNAP benefits.