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Looking At One Aspect Of The Farm Bill: Food Stamps

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Taking a look at problems with food stamps in the U.S.

The farm bill might be better named the food bill. After all, only 11% of funding in the farm bill goes to farm policies. More than 84% of farm bill-related spending goes to such food and nutrition programs as food stamps.

Learn more about the farm bill here.

Recent figures show that one in eight Americans and one in four children go to bed hungry at night. Moreover, a record-high of 47 million low-income people rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps.

Some argue that we should get rid of the entire farm bill altogether, drop the safety net for farmers, and eliminate food assistance programs. Others say it would be nearly impossible to end SNAP and leave millions of people wondering where their next meal will come from. While some see a bloated government program, others see a life-saving support system.

According to Reuters, SNAP certainly needs some adjustments if it’s going to continue to support hungry Americans.

“During and following the 2007-2009 recession, demand for food stamps soared, with middle-class families who found themselves suddenly homeless and jobless pushing enrollment to a record 47.7 million people by September 2012. Even during the recovery, demand has remained high and food pantries and soup kitchens continue to feel the strain. But the program rankles many, especially some Republicans, who see it as a bloated government handout.  Fraud concerns are also an ongoing issue.

“The USDA is slow to react to rising food costs. There is a 16-month lag between when the government assesses the cost of food and when it adjusts benefit amounts to accommodate fluctuations. The dearth of affordable supermarkets in many cities means that urban dwellers, who represent a high proportion of those in poverty, must pay more for healthy foods. Food stamps are intended for buying cheap basic ingredients and unprocessed foods.

“The U.S. Congress has passed a one-year extension of the farm bill that allocates money for food assistance, along with agricultural programs. Republicans' desire to reduce benefits has become a major obstacle to passing a wider, more comprehensive farm bill that would cost $500 billion. They are seeking $16 billion of cuts in the program over 10 years - the deepest cuts in a generation. Many also question the formulas used to determine how much each family receives. USDA assumes families will spend 30% of their incomes on food when, in fact, most can afford to spend only 13% given rising costs for housing and healthcare, it said. That means that as the families' incomes rise, the government reduces their benefits too sharply.”

While I’m fortunate to not have to rely on food stamps to buy my groceries, you can bet there are those in my community and surrounding area who need this support. However, in light of needed budget cuts, the farm bill increasingly is looking to many people like a good place to start. But, while most think of the farm bill as consisting only of food stamps and farm subsidies, the program also offers support to beginning farmers and ranchers, as well as conservation programs, for example. These are programs important to our nation’s food security and overall environmental quality.

How do you see the farm bill? Is it a needed tool for Americans, or is it outdated? What do you need from a farm bill? Or, do you think it’s time to eliminate it altogether? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Discuss this Blog Entry 22

on Jan 28, 2013

I've never been able to figure out why we don't split this program in two. The farm bill and a nutrition assistance program.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jan 29, 2013

Let's cut every program 5 or 10 percent and see where end up.

Anonymous from MO (not verified)
on Jan 29, 2013

As "poor" farmers, we qualify for food assistance. However, we don't feel it is morally right to take from others while we can still make it. We just do without name brand groceries, TV, cable, cell phones, new cars, fancy designer clothes, booze and cigarettes, etc., etc. Almost nothing bothers me more to see folks at the supermarket on their fancy cell phone buying their name brand potato chips on food stamps and their beer and cigarettes on the side.
Something is not right with the system... If we wiped out the program and started over feeding the truly needy, I'd feel a lot better!

on Jan 29, 2013

I have my limits. I ain't givin up booze

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jan 29, 2013

AMAN!!

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jan 29, 2013

Just remember that for every $1 the federal government currently spends on anything, they borrow 40 cents.

For everything additional your and my congressmen promises and every piece of pork they sneak in, they have to borrow a dollar on the dollar.

That means for every $1 someone gets for what ever reason, someone else is going to have to pay a $1.40 plus interest. If they were running a local business, they'd be jailed for cooking the books.

Anonymous from MO (not verified)
on Jan 29, 2013

Oh, and really, I think we need to eliminate the farm bill altogether. We need free markets without govt intervention. I'm also tired of the "hobby farmers" and "corporate farmers" paying for their fancy new pickup with CRP funds. I mean, to pay people NOT to produce!?!?! How stupid is that?!?!?

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jan 29, 2013

A life time of food stamps for a family that are capable of working and providing food and shelter for his or her family is wrong , it only teach s there children the same ,there should be limits set ,then we will be able to help the one s in need .

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jan 29, 2013

$30 per acre crp payments don't buy much for a pickup these days. The crp proved to be a beneficial emergency hay reserve this year.

Anonymous from MO (not verified)
on Jan 29, 2013

"Hay reserve" or no... CRP is just as immoral as food stamps. If you accept money from the govt to NOT grow, it's just like accepting food stamps or welfare or unemployment to NOT work. We are teaching people to not be productive... to not work... to not take care of ourselves.
And what will happen when the govt really does run out of money?
Maybe I should just give in... If I put my whole place under CRP I'd make more than I've made the last three years... without any work. Why bother if the govt is willing to just give it to me?
Or, maybe to put it another way, why doesn't everyone that reads this just send me $1000 so I don't have to work? Doesn't that sound fair?

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jan 29, 2013

I believe that the farm bill needs to be rearranged in a way that more money is being spent on programs that help farmers rather than on programs that help people that just stay at home and not work. I know that there are people that need food stamps to be able to provide for thier families but I feel as if there are more on food stamps that dont actually need them than the number of people that actually do. We should spend more money on programs that help farmers and agriculture researchers find cheaper and efficient ways to grow and produce food so that food prices are not so high and less people need to be on food stamps.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jan 29, 2013

CRP is a program that the government has to take care of the land for wildlife, as well as for reserve in case of much needed hay crops. If we turn up all the land where will the wildlife live? People with food stamps need to be educated on how to buy ingredients to make greater portions to last! Food stamps are no intended for people to be able to buy beer, potato chips, and other "empty" calories.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jan 29, 2013

A significant problem with the ag side of the farm bill is that it is out of whack with what we know about healthy eating. It underwrites the commodity crops that are the basis of junk food while devoting much less energy to fruits and vegetables.

SNAP benefits hardly allow people to live it up. Depending on family size, it's likely to be less than two dollars a meal.

Furthermore, about half of SNAP beneficiaries are children. The elderly and households with persons with disabilities make up another good chunk. Adults who are physically able to work can only be on SNAP for three months out of every three years (though there are significant limitations on this rule, including it being suspended in areas of high unemployment).

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jan 31, 2013

For a family of 4 @$2 meal X 30 days that is $720 month. A decent food budget. There are other basic needs like toothpaste, soap, toilet paper, etc. that mean I would rather have some cash than food stamps, but $720 should buy enough basic food.

on Jan 29, 2013

Don't get me started about CRP

CRP was a government price support program that was installed because the USDA perceived a glut of grain on the market in the 80s. The most damaging aspect of the program was that it put the US government in direct competition for land with young farmers. The government offered over $40 an acre on a lot of the contracts When the market was $22 which put every young farmer that wanted to lease the neighbors place out of the running. Now the USDA scratches its head wondering why there's no young farmers.

The wildlife that received the most benefit was a non-native bird species.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jan 29, 2013

Very well said!!

Blaine (not verified)
on Jan 29, 2013

You are absolutely correct! Perfectly stated!

on Jan 29, 2013

Thanks Blaine 8-)

BTW Enjoy your beer!

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jan 30, 2013

I do agree with you on that cause with the DC Payments on the land I lease it makes my payment for the land about $30 an acre. Without the DC Payments my lease would only be around $10 to $15 an acre.

W.E. (not verified)
on Jan 29, 2013

Interestingly, the guy who can't give up his booze doesn't want any land to be reserved for emergencies or conservation. He probably hasn't walked in a wild meadow lately to see how many rabbits, quail and fawns can hide from the coyotes in resting grassland. Another conservative who doesn't want to know or hear anything about the necessity of conservation. The Conservation Reserve Program was once called the "soil bank" for good reason: when grassland rests, especially where surrounded with deciduous trees, it builds topsoil. Our farm has its own soil bank that the government doesn't pay anything to subsidize. This reserve consists of two plots of long-lived perennial Eastern Gamagrass, each bordered by trees on three or four sides. Right now one of those plots is serving as standing hay and winter shelter for a herd of young cows with fall calves, so their manure is adding more to its natural fertility reserve. Last summer, it was full of wildlife and nesting quail. If every farmer would voluntarily idle ten percent of his most fragile and erodible land, plant perennial grasses and/or trees there, the government would find no need to offer financial incentives like the CRP program to protect a portion from excess grain production. The ancients would have considered ten percent a tithe. In modern days, it might be considered wasteful, but it's really wise to save some ground for the future.

Blaine (not verified)
on Jan 29, 2013

Okay...really confused...I am all for the grass lands and conservation, but can't I enjoy an iced cold beer at the same time?

CRP program was NEVER intended to protect wildlife, despite what they say. They had to stop the glut of grain production in order to keep price control!

on Jan 29, 2013

On the contrary W.E. This ranch( the guy who can't give up his booze) has poured six figures plus into grassland conservation, watershed conservation, wildlife conservation, improvements for range pasture idling program rest and rotation practice (20% annually is our target), streambank protection and stabilization, rangeland grass species monitoring, shelter belts both planted and native, irrigation water conservation through more efficient application practices, just to name a few.

All on our own dime.

There are native and introduced grass studies done on this place that the government stopped monitoring 40 years ago but we still monitor on an annual basis.

We have a much larger per acre wildlife population both game animal and game bird and nongame species than any CRP in the state and most state parks within 200 miles and we are open to the public for blue ribbon trout stream fishing and hunting to the tune of 500 hunters each fall season.

The practices you mention are also commendable.

In my opinion there are far better conservation practices than CRP that can be applied to large acreage. As I said in my earlier comment it was a price support program that went into direct competition with young farmers for land which they needed to become viable.

Many aren't farming today because of the CRP program.

P.S. You want to see a wildlife reserve explode with life?
Put it under a pivot.

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A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

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