COMMENTARY

Politics As Usual: Dissecting The Farm Bill

8.21.13 Farm Bill

(By Jermon Williams)

It’s August recess, which means that members of congress (and their staffers) are off somewhere recharging, in preparation for the hectic September legislative schedule. And while this time of year is viewed as much needed time off, the 2013 congressional agenda has presented enough challenges to interrupt any vacation. With issues ranging from a dysfunctional congress to critical policy issues, there’s a proverbial cloud hovering above our nation’s capitol like an August thunderstorm. I’ll start with agricultural policy in America also known as the Farm Bill, which on the surface addresses the needs of farmers. That is, until we begin to peel back the layers and decipher what the bill actually entails.

Every five years congress reauthorizes the extension of the Farm Bill: an ominous legislative policy that provides essential support to US agriculture, covering everything from farm programs to trade and conservation. A key element to the Farm Bill is the food stamp measure called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities. The core function of SNAP is to alleviate hunger, improve nutrition and health, and increase food purchasing power of low-income households.

The Supplemental Nutrition Program or “SNAP” is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net, currently serving nearly 20.8 million people each month. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, SNAP participation has grown vastly since 2007. Currently, the average SNAP recipient receives $134 per month, which for many, isn’t enough to last the week. Still, opponents of SNAP cite ineffectiveness of the program as reason behind their push to reduce SNAP funding by $48 million over ten years. The problem with this argument is logic, which tells us that dramatic cuts to food stamps would leave nearly 5 million people without access to nutritious food, severely affecting family health and health care costs.

Public Policies are intrinsically linked, with one policy impacting the next and the lives of its stakeholders. And as Republicans aim to cut food stamp benefits by implementing stricter eligibility requirements, we must remember that in the world of policy, what affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

Jermon Williams, a new contributor to “The Information Age” will weigh in on political issues that impact all of us.  Jermon is a Partner with Broccoli City and President of the Congressional Black Associates.

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