Proposed farm bill hurts families struggling to put food on the table
By U.S. Rep Al Lawson
Special to the Outlook
The Farm Bill is about more than just growing crops – it is about ensuring that all Americans have access to safe and nutritious food, health and securing a better way of life. As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, I have worked hard with my colleagues to prepare a bill that ensures our nation’s farmers and families have the resources they need to live the American Dream.
Unfortunately, this Farm Bill does not do that. The bill introduced by House Republicans proposes to cut billions of dollars from federal nutrition assistance programs, including SNAP, and take food away from millions of seniors, veterans, persons with disabilities and vulnerable communities struggling to make ends meet.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) helps 40 million families and offers vital support to rural counties and farming communities. Last year, SNAP worked to provide food and financial stability for 3,187,000 Floridians and 1,691,000 Florida households. The average recipient receives approximately $187 a month, averaging about $1.40 per person per meal.
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that for every $1 spent on SNAP benefits, $1.79 was reinvested into the economy. The Farm Bill being advanced by Republicans in the House would cut that investment, leading to not only more hunger, but a loss of economic activity.
The new restrictive policies within the bill would end or cut SNAP benefits for more than one million low-income households, add aggressive new work requirements and throw 265,000 school children off the free lunch programs.
Rather than punishing those in need, it is necessary to increase resources for nutrition programs that help reduce food insecurity throughout our communities. Programs such as SNAP-Ed educates families on how to use SNAP efficiently. The Farm Bill would also put an added strain on our nation’s food pantries, which often serve as a lifeline. These community-based services were not built to sustain the increased demand that this bill would cause.
I am thoroughly disappointed with the partisan direction this process has taken. The bipartisan spirit and goals our committee worked toward have been completely thrown out the window. As a nation, we should be steadfast in eradicating hunger. This bill instead denies our most vulnerable Americans nutrition.
We must do better. There needs to be a solution that will accurately reflect the needs of our seniors, persons with disabilities, and rural and working families who struggle every day to put life sustaining food on the table. We need to recognize that food insecurity affects our children, our families and our communities.
There are several important provisions in this Farm Bill that benefit our nation’s agriculture industry – many of these I would like to support. But, I cannot do so at the expense of our nation’s most vulnerable.
To the people of Florida’s 5th Congressional district, I vow to continue to fight against a partisan Farm Bill that places our community’s most vulnerable in jeopardy. This issue is not just about farming – it is about feeding America.
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson represents Florida’s Fifth Congressional District, which stretches from Gadsden County to parts of Duval County.