Bipartisan farm bill satisfies the very few
Stephon Johnson | 2/13/2014, 12:08 p.m.
A bill passed in Congress involving money and benefits and those who already have money got the most benefits out of it? In other words, it’s a day that ends with the letter “y.”
The recent farm bill passed by Congress slashes billions of dollars in food stamps to Americans in need, provides many subsidies and benefits for big agribusiness and leaves many small-time farmers scrounging for crumbs. As the AmNews reported last week, according to statistics delivered by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, every $1 of Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) money spent generates $1.73 in the U.S. economy. This would result in a $3.8 billion hit to New York City’s economy. With the city facing a budget shortfall and unions seeking new contracts, that’s money that New York City can’t afford to be without.
Sheena Wright, president and CEO of United Way of New York City, said in a statement that the city would feel the brunt of the cuts to SNAP.
“The impact of the SNAP cuts will hit New York City harder than any other city in the country. This is New York City’s story like no one else’s. It’s our responsibility to our neighbors, and to ourselves, to rally around the basic principle that every New Yorker should be well fed,” said Wright. “Almost 2 million New Yorkers, including the elderly, low-wage workers and vulnerable children, rely on these essential benefits, and by cutting them, we starve our city of its potential.”
The bill will slash funding to SNAP by $9 billion, reducing food benefits for close to 1.5 million Americans. It also includes language that would make it difficult for the Environmental Protection Agency to track importation of genetically engineered and pesticide-coated seeds and to monitor their use. This doesn’t even include the failure of the bill to include reforms to crop insurance or subsidy limits, which benefits wealthy and large-scale farms and leaves others out in the cold.
While the bill touted funding organic farm programs and language supporting local and regional food networks, the Center for Food Safety wasn’t happy with most of it as well.
“The greatest disappointment is the failure of this farm bill to address the immediate and long-term sustainability of our agricultural system,” read the Center for Food Safety’s statement. “As the signature piece of legislation meant to support and grow our agricultural and food systems, opportunity for innovation and progress abounds. Yet Congress remains mired in outdated policies and beholden to the largest industry groups rather than the people of this country.”
But the dissatisfaction didn’t just come from so-called progressives. Sen. John McCain blasted the bill for its “wasteful” spending.
“Taxpayer advocacy groups like Citizens Against Government Waste blasted this farm bill as a ‘Dung Deal,’” said McCain. “Mr. President, how are we supposed to restore the American people’s confidence with this monstrosity? Just a few weeks ago, we crammed down their throats a $1.1 trillion Omnibus Appropriations Bill loaded with wasteful spending. Tomorrow we’ll wash the Omnibus down with another trillion dollars. The only policy that gets bipartisan traction in Congress is Washington’s desire to hand out taxpayer money like it’s candy.”
Joining him in the perturbed ranks was Dr. John Boyd Jr., president of the Black Farmers Association, who also wasn’t happy with most of the bill.
“Many of us farmers and advocates worked very hard on the farm bill,” wrote Boyd in a statement posted on the Huffington Post. “I wanted to see more reform for federal crop insurance for minority farmers. The larger farmers will receive the most help, while small and minority farmers will receive little to no relief under the federal crop insurance program.”
Boyd did, however, find some silver linings.
“On the positive side, the bill dampens the $4.5 billion direct payments to mega-farms and farmers,” Boyd continued. “It puts pressure on farmers to purchase federal crop insurance in order to maintain farm subsidies, but it still allows large farmers, such as corn, wheat and soybean producers, to benefit heavily from the federal government.”
In other words, big business wins again.