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Organic Consumers Association

The US Farm Bill is a Corporate Victory and a Slap to Struggling Americans

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Farm Issues page and our Politics and Democracy page.

The cost of providing poor Americans with food stamps has doubled in the past four years, reflecting the fact that a record 47.8 million people are struggling to feed themselves and their families. The US Congress has an answer to the growth in poverty: force more people to struggle.

This glib response to a national crisis will be tested in the farm bill that passed the US Senate on Monday and will be up for debate in the House soon. Even though it's called "the farm bill," it's actually the legislation that primarily funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - better known as food stamps.

The Senate version would cut food stamps by $400m a year, adding up to $4bn over the decade covered by the bill. The House version, up for bitter debate starting next week, promises to cut even more: $20bn, mostly as a sop to conservative lawmakers who killed the bill last year because of what they considered a measly $16bn in cuts. At the current size, the House bill would deny 2 million people with low incomes access to food stamps, Reuters said.

By cutting the food stamp program, lawmakers are trying to make room or trade political points for what they really have to do, which is cut wasteful and ineffective subsidies to wealthy farmers that favor factory farming and disadvantage small farmers who make less than $250,000 a year. By the way, some of those wealthy farmers benefiting from subsidies in the farm bill are, very conveniently, also members of Congress.

And before you start believing this is an issue just concerning "the poor," remember that poverty has increasingly affected the middle class, too. Food stamps were initially created to help feed working families. Even now, a man or woman working full-time at minimum wage is making only $15,000 a year - a salary so low that it is eligible for food stamps. Not only do 14% of Americans live in poverty, but in some suburbs, food stamp use has doubled or even tripled. CNN Money told the story of one New Jersey suburb, Morris County, where food stamp use had grown by 240% by 2012. Then, of course, there is the unemployment crisis as 12 million Americans remain unemployed, about 40% of them for long-term periods longer than 6 months.  


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