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Farm Bill Passes in the House, Sent to the Senate for Vote Next Week

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Originally posted by our friends at Feeding America San Diego: After three years of negotiations, the House of Representatives has approved the Farm Bill by a vote of 251-166, with 15 members not voting on Wednesday, January 29, 2014.

The Senate is expected to begin procedural moves this week so that a Senate vote on the Farm Bill will take place on Monday next week.

Highlights from the nutrition title include the following (all numbers are based on a ten-year budget):

  • $8.55 billion cut to SNAP by tightening the “Heat and Eat” policy, which would affect the following states:  California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.
  • $205 million increase for TEFAP.  The TEFAP funding would be front loaded to provide greater resources in the initial three years of the bill, with an additional $50 million in FY2015, $40 million in FY2016, $20 million in FY2017, $15 million in FY2018 and FY2019, $16 million in FY2020, FY2021, and FY2022, and $17 million in FY2023.  The funding is indexed for food price inflation.  This funding also has the same transfer authority as TEFAP mandatory funding, allowing states to transfer up to 10% of the funding into TEFAP storage and distribution grants.
  • Establishes the Dairy Donation Program. If dairy prices fall below a specific price trigger for 5 consecutive months, USDA is authorized to begin a dairy purchase program, with the dairy products going to public and private nonprofit organizations, and with instructions for USDA to consult with nonprofits on the type of dairy products requested. While there is no set cost, this would provide additional commodities much like TEFAP bonus commodities do when prices are low enough to trigger USDA price support.
  • $250 million for states to pilot innovative programs help SNAP participants get back to work.
  • Clarifies allowable SNAP outreach activities (for example, forbids outreach workers from receiving rewards on a per-head basis for number of applications processed).
  • Improves SNAP access by allowing SNAP home delivery for homebound seniors and disabled participants.
  • Promotes access to nutritious food by tightening stocking requirements for SNAP retailers and testing new ways to use EBT cards (for example, swiping on a mobile device at a farmers’ market).
  • Improves SNAP integrity through new measures to combat trafficking of benefits by retailers and recipients and policy changes forbidding benefits for lottery winners and affluent college students.
  • Transitions the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) to a senior only program, allowing women and children currently participating in the program to remain on the caseload.
  • Protects SNAP nutrition education.

While, elements of this bill are positive, the cuts to SNAP are devastating for Californians and people in other states impacted by this cut. Please call Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and tell them “Vote NO on the Farm Bill. I oppose all SNAP cuts.” The number to use is the Capitol Switchboard:  (202)-224-3121.

Passage of $40 Billion SNAP Cut in House

The House passed a bill to cut $40 billion from SNAP (food stamps) yesterday. The measure narrowly passed the House by a vote of 217 to 210.

Locally in Contra Costa and Solano counties:

1 in 4 people are struggling with hunger. (This is the percent of people living at 180% FPL.) The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is serving 50% more people since the start of the recession through their direct service programs and network of partner agencies. That number does not seem to be slowing down. The Food Assistance Program through which the Food Bank distributes federal commodities, the need is still continuing to grow and new people are needing help each month. Regular volunteers who serve each month and often multiple times a month are getting burned out and there is a lack of volunteers willing to commit to help with this program.

Already struggling to keep up with the demand, these farm bill cuts will flood food banks across the country with people needing assistance to feed their families.

From Feeding America:

Did you know that the proposed cuts to SNAP (food stamps) is more than the meals distributed by the entire nationwide network of food banks? Together, the SNAP meals lost in 2014 from the scheduled ARRA cuts and the proposed farm bill cuts (nearly 3.4 billion meals) would exceed the projected annual meal distribution by Feeding America food banks around the country (3.3 billion meals). Following a 46 percent increase in demand during the recession, food banks are already struggling to meet need in their communities and will be unable to make up the difference. Charity can’t make up for lost SNAP meals. Congress must protect SNAP in the farm bill. http://feedingamerica.org/how-we-fight-hunger/advocacy-public-policy/policy-center/federal-anti-hunger-programs-and-policies/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program/snap-charity.aspx#

 

From recent SNAPclients:

Rosa and Ron

SNAP is the only source of food for Solano county seniors Rosa and Ron.  Their only source of income is Ron’s social security.  Most of that goes to pay their $1,120 rent, leaving them very little for other living expenses.  Often, they will forgo filling or refilling their prescriptions for diabetes and high blood pressure medication because they simply do not have the funds for it.  Without SNAP they simply would not have the funds to put food on the table.  They utilize the Food Bank’s Senior Food Program for additional food but that alone is not enough to feed them for the month.  Many months are even more trying when their disabled adult son lives with them for short periods of time.  Their son has a mental disability and is often homeless unless he lives with them.  Feeding two people on $190 month of CalFresh benefits, what is $6.30 per day or $3.15 per person per day is reduced further when their son is living with them.  Those benefits must now feed three adults at $2.11 per person each day.  Ron is a very proud man, having worked three jobs his entire life and it was difficult to accept the idea that he needed government benefits to feed his family.  Rosa and Ron are already living without medical necessities and doing all they can to survive, the SNAP benefit cuts would further negatively impact their already precarious lives.

Next steps:

The House and the Senate will confer and have to come up with some sort of compromise. Call your Representatives. Let them know SNAP cuts do nothing to fix what ails our country and economy.

Local Congressman Votes Against Increasing Hunger in America

Guest post from Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA): Today, Congressman John Garamendi, a rancher, pear farmer, and a Member of the House Agriculture Committee, voted against H.R. 3102, a partisan bill that would slash the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by nearly $40 billion, thereby denying food assistance to at least four million low-income Americans. The measure narrowly passed the House by a vote of 217 to 210.

Congressman John Garamendi released the following statement:

“We live in the richest nation on earth, yet one in five American children go to bed hungry. Nearly 50 million Americans, including many of our friends and neighbors in Northern California, struggle to put food on the table – through no fault of their own. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) plays a vital role in feeding the hungry, preventing millions from slipping into destitution, and helping people get themselves back on their feet. Indeed, more than 9 in 10 Americans on SNAP are children, seniors, disabled, or already working.

“SNAP has been a bipartisan success story. As President Reagan said, ‘As long as there is one person in this country who is hungry, that’s one person too many, and something must be done about it.’ This week, bipartisan Senate Leaders Bob Dole and Tom Daschle wrote an op-ed urging Congress to ‘Stop playing politics with hunger’ and reject this bill. They also point out that ongoing improvements to regulate the program have kept fraud and abuse to an historic low of less than 2%. The bipartisan Farm Bill passed by the Senate this year continues these reforms.

“H.R. 3102 breaks with this bipartisan tradition. The bill throws a monkey wrench into the work requirements for SNAP recipients found in the 1990s Welfare Reform Law. It eliminates employment opportunities by cutting job training programs. The bill’s pernicious legislative text would encourage states to pocket the savings from taking food away from their most impoverished residents. H.R. 3102 would take away school breakfast and lunch for 210,000 children. The bill would eliminate food assistance for one in five veterans and hundreds of thousands of seniors, disabled people, and low-income working Americans. At a time when so many Americans are struggling to get by, these draconian cuts would plunge even more people into extreme poverty.

“This bill will also weaken our nation’s farm and rural economies and jeopardize any chance of passing a new farm bill to support our nation’s farmers, ranchers, food security, conservation, and rural communities.”
Facts on SNAP:

 

  • Every dollar spent on reducing hunger adds $1.70 to the economy
  • The number and percent of people who struggle with hunger (i.e. meet the USDA definition of “food insecure”) in California’s Third Congressional District counties: Solano: 64,360 (15.6%), Sacramento: 243,470(17.3%), Yolo: 35,100 (17.6%), Sutter: 19,000 (20.2%), Yuba: 15,290 (21.3%), Colusa: 4,210 (19.8%), Lake: 12,990 (20.2%), Glenn: 5,080 (18.1%).
  • The number and percent of children who struggle with hunger: Solano: 21,120 (20.7%), Sacramento: 86,390 (23.8%), Yolo: 10,960 (24.4%), Sutter: 8,110 (31.1%), Yuba: 6,910 (33%), Colusa: 2,120 (19.8%), Lake: 4,530 (32.7%), Glenn: 2,350 (29.7%)
  • The rate of fraud and abuse in SNAP is less than 2%.
  • By contrast, the rate of error and fraud in the federal income tax system equals about 15 % of taxes legally owed.  That is, about 15 % of the income taxes that are owed go unpaid.
  • The House bill eliminates food assistance for more than 170,000 veterans, or nearly one in five veterans. An estimated 3 million veterans and their families don’t get enough to eat each month.
  • One in five children (16 million) struggle with hunger, a record high.
  • 22 million of all SNAP recipients are children (45% of the total).
  • There are nearly 4 million people over age 60 who are enrolled in SNAP, with the typical senior household with an average income under $10,000
  • In 2011, SNAP lifted the incomes of more than 1 million women above the poverty line.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 American Indians and Alaskan natives struggled with hunger in 2008.
  • The average SNAP benefit equates to roughly $1.40 per person per meal
  • There are two million fewer jobs than at the start of the recession
  • SNAP currently has work requirements which can be waived by the states during times of high unemployment.  46 states – including almost every Republican Governor – have sought waivers in FY13 to provide SNAP for those looking for work and repeatedly over the last ten years.
  • SNAP recipients live in all areas of the country – about 40 percent live in urban areas, 40 percent in suburban areas, and 20 percent in rural areas.
  • Sources and Resources: Agriculture Committee Short Summary of the bill, LA Times Article by Senators Dole and Daschle, Inspector General of the United States Department of Agriculture, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, Feeding America, Agriculture Committee detailed summary, and Feed Our Vets.

U.S. Senate and House Consider Cuts to Food Stamps

Original post by: Jessica Bartholow, Legislative Advocate, Western Center on Law and Poverty. Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate will mark up the farm bill this week in their respective committees; the Senate on Tuesday, May 14, and the House on Wednesday, May 15.

 

In the Senate, the agriculture committee chairwoman’s farm bill draft included a $4.1 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), increasing the likelihood of hunger for millions of families.

The House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas released this first draft of the farm bill into committee on Friday. His draft would cut SNAP (formerly food stamps) by $20 billion over 10 years.  Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), a member of the agriculture committee, said the bill “would make hunger worse and not better.”

During the mark-up, after the chair offers the first draft, committee members have the opportunity to propose and vote on any amendments, or changes, to the bill. Once a final version is voted out of committee, leadership then adds it to the schedule for a floor vote. Both House and Senate leadership have indicated they would like a farm bill on the summer agenda.

Any cuts to SNAP would prove devastating for vulnerable Americans, including over 4 million low-income Californians who depend on the program to prevent hunger. SNAP participants are already facing a reduction in benefits—on Nov. 1, a temporary program boost that was included in the 2009 stimulus package will expire. Even more alarming: a recent Institute of Medicine study concluded that the way in which the benefit level is calculated for SNAP is inadequate for a healthy diet. Inadequate as existing levels are, just this expiration will reduce the average benefit to about $1.40 per person per meal, reports the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities.

Cutting the program by $20 billion over 10 years would reduce the benefit even further and increase food insecurity. This is why one in seven Americans polled oppose cuts to the program.

Western Center on Law and Poverty has been working with other allies in the state to oppose the cuts. “Cutting the nutrition safetynet for our poorest families is not necessary and it is cruel, increasing the likelihood that poor Americans, most of whom are children, will experience the indignity of hunger,” says Jessica Bartholow, a legislative advocate based in Western Center’s Sacramento Office.

 

For more information about the 2013 Farm Bill, go to: www.frac.org.

Sequestration Update and Call for Immediate Action

This Friday, March 1, unless the Congress acts, automatic federal budget cuts under “sequestration” will go into effect. These cuts will impact a number of vital services critically-important to low-income people.

Tomorrow, the Senate will vote on the American Family Economic Protection Act (pdf), the Senate Democrats’ bill to avoid sequestration. The proposal would prevent cuts to education, public health, nutrition and other vital services by replacing them with more gradual cuts to the Pentagon, setting a minimum tax for millionaires and closing some corporate tax loopholes.

Take Action: Contact your Senators immediately and urge them to vote for the American Family Economic Act when the bill comes up for a vote tomorrow afternoon (Feb. 28).

dc-capitol

Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Phone:(202) 224-3841

 

Sen. Barbara Boxer

Phone:(202) 224-3553

 

Here is a sample of what could happen if these budget cuts go into effect:

  • 600,000 low-income women and young children could be cut from the WIC program
  • 19 million fewer meals for seniors from programs like Meals on Wheels
  • 5,000,000 fewer low-income families receiving prenatal health care and other services that help decrease infant mortality and improve maternal health
  • 112,190 fewer victims of domestic violence receiving services
  • 750,000 Americans losing their jobs
  • $2.4 million cut from funding food banks need to store and distribute food at a time of increased demand and tightened resources.

Questions? Please contact me (Lisa Sherrill) at (925) 676-7543 extension 206 or lsherrill@foodbankccs.org.

 

Call Congress Today! It’s Easy!

Today (November 28), Feeding America and other national partners are hosting a national call-in day to mobilize advocates across the country in opposition to cutting hunger-relief programs and protecting tax incentives to encourage food and fund donations as part of a deal on the Fiscal Cliff.

Call in Details:

As Congress debates how to address the looming Fiscal Cliff, we must urge them to do it the right way.  Help us show Congress that cutting programs that help feed struggling families is not the way to balance the budget.

Here’s how:

  • Call using Feeding America’s toll-free hotline at 866-527-1087.
  • Listen to the pre-recorded message and enter your zip code when prompted. Connect to your Senators first.
  • Once you are connected to your first Senator, state that you are a constituent and give your name and the town you are calling from.
  • Let them know you are calling about anti-hunger programs and deliver this important message:

I urge you to oppose cutting SNAP and other hunger-relief programs as part of any deal on the Fiscal Cliff and to continue to protect tax incentives to encourage food and fund donations to food banks.  Cutting programs that put food on the table for hungry Americans is not the way to balance our nation’s budget. 

  • Be sure to repeat the process so that you speak with your Representative and both of your Senators.

 

Farm Bill Update: SNAP Cuts Pass House Ag Commitee

From the St. Anthony Foundation blog written by Colleen Rivecca, Advocacy Coordinator: Thanks to everyone who joined in on the national call-in day to support SNAP in the Farm Bill.  Here’s an update on the Farm Bill action from July 11.

On Wednesday, July 11, the House Agriculture Committee voted to accept $16 billion in cuts over 10 years to SNAP (the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program”, also known as “food stamps” or “CalFresh” here in California).  A group of Representatives (Reps. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, Joe Baca of California, Peter Welch of Vermont, Marcia Fudge of Ohio and Terri Sewell of Alabama) attempted to reinstate $16 billion to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program, but their amendment failed on a 15 to 31 vote.

What would the $16 billion in cuts to SNAP mean for California?

  • Put restrictions on the use of “Categorical Eligibility”.  In California, AB 433 of 2008 (one of our Hunger Action Day bills) implemented modified Categorical Eligibility in California, extending CalFresh to individuals whose income is low enough for them to qualify but who have assets (savings, retirement funds) that would make them ineligible.  Restricting the use of Categorical Eligibility in California  would make approximately 177,000 low-income households ineligible for CalFresh.
  • Put restrictions on the use of the “Heat and Eat” option.  In California, AB 6 of 2011 (another one of our Hunger Action Day bills) will, starting January 1, 2013, increase CalFresh benefits by $43/month for about 200,000 California households by allowing them to automatically qualify for a deduction for utility payments.  The Farm Bill amendment to restrict the use of Heat and Eat will limit states’ abilities to automatically allow for a utility deduction.

What happened and why?

SNAP enrollment has risen from 19 million in 2002 to 46 million in 2012.  Those who favor cutting SNAP see SNAP spending as a drain on the economy and are trying to cut costs by identifying what they call “loopholes” used by states to ease SNAP enrollment.  Two of the “loopholes” they’re trying to close are Categorical Eligibility and Heat and Eat. As House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas stated, “SNAP’s resources have been stretched because this administration has encouraged states to take liberties in how the program is administered”.

Anti-Hunger advocates who support SNAP see the program as an important economic stimulus and point out that SNAP enrollment is supposed to rise during times of economic difficulty, when more people are experiencing job loss, poverty, and hunger.  As the economy improves, SNAP enrollment rates will go down.  The Congressional Budget Office projects that the share of the population that participates in SNAP will fall back to 2008 levels in coming years and that SNAP costs as a share of the economy will fall back to their 1995 level by 2019.

Anti-hunger advocates see streamlining efforts such as Categorical Eligibility and Heat and Eat not as loopholes, but as tools to reduce administrative burdens on states and on SNAP participants while helping to ensure that hungry low-income people are able to access nutrition benefits.  Categorical eligibility helps low-wage working families with children and seniors with modest savings to qualify for SNAP.   Heat and Eat helps reduce paperwork and allows low-income people who don’t have utility bills in their name, but who still pay utility costs, to receive a SNAP benefit that is above the minimum benefit level of $16 per month.  A cut to Heat and Eat would disproportionately affect seniors, the disabled, and working poor families with children.

Next Steps:

There is still a lot of dissention in the House of Representatives around the Farm Bill.  Although it has passed through the House Agriculture Committee, there doesn’t seem to be much support for the bill in the full House.  The more conservative members of the House would like to see the bill’s price tag cut down further.  The more liberal members of the House don’t like the Farm Bill in its current form because of the SNAP cuts.

To further complicate matters, the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill differs significantly from the House’s version.  It is unclear at this point whether either house of Congress will bring the Farm Bill to the floor for a vote before the current version of the bill expires in September. They may decide to extend the current Farm Bill until the November election and to deal with creating a new Farm Bill at a less politically contentious time.

We will continue to keep you updated on upcoming opportunities to contact your representatives and advocate for a fair Farm Bill that does not hurt hungry people.

Safety Net Needed to Keep California’s Families Afloat

Our effort to end hunger doesn’t stop with bags of groceries for our neighbors in need — we also work toward policies that will create a culture in which hunger can be eradicated. These days, stopping cuts to our safety net are our top priority. Food Bankers, pantry and soup kitchen volunteers and staff, nutritionists, food bank supporters, homelessness service providers and others from across the state concerned about the more than 7 million Californians experiencing hunger marched and spoke to legislators on May 17 for Hunger Action Day. We made known that California can do better than a budget that asks only that our children, seniors and people with disabilities sacrifice again and again.

Hunger Action Day opening remarks

This year, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano along with the Monument Crisis Center, Sojourner Truth Presbyterian Church food pantry and a community advocate volunteer joined 400 other California Hunger Action Coalition (CHAC) advocates at the Capitol. We heard personal stories from people who have benefited from the very programs the governor proposes to cut. Without the safety net their families would not have been able to improve their situations and make a better life for themselves. One woman had experienced a time of homelessness and through CalWORKS was able to go back to school. It was amazing to hear how she turned her situation around with a little help and she even earned her Bachelor’s degree.

Rally around the Capitol (photo by Monument Crisis Center staff)

Our group had 7 meetings with legislative staffers and asked our representatives to protect the most vulnerable among us — the children, seniors and working families we serve each day. The response we got each time was the Assemblymember/Senator supports what you are saying but it is going to be tough.

That’s why we need your help. Even if you weren’t able to join us in Sacramento yesterday, you can get involved now! Please help us send a CLEAR message to Governor Brown to save our safety net.

Governor Brown has proposed drastic cuts to our safety net programs, particularly CalWORKS, which would instantly cut 100,000 children out of the safety net and reduce families’ grants to what they were in the 1980s if his proposal is enacted. We need to stand up for our communities and fight against policies that balance our state budget on the backs of children, seniors and working-class families.

Use the sample email below to send a message to Governor Brown. You can contact him through his website. Please let him know what you think about his budget cuts and advocate for a budget that isn’t balanced on the backs of low-income children, seniors and the disabled.

Sample letter

Governor Brown,

Over 400 advocates from across the state went to Sacramento on May 17 to stand up against hunger, and call on you and the Legislature to stand down on your attacks against California’s safety net.

After three years and $15 billion in cuts to vital social programs, it is unconscionable to allow California’s safety net to be further dismantled at a time when our families need it most. When a family’s income falls short, the first place they cut is their food budget, leading to unacceptable hunger throughout our state.
Stop allowing the California’s child poverty rate to continue to climb dangerously and keep all Californians afloat. It’s just the right thing to do.

Sincerely,

Your name

Thank you to all the amazing advocates for their passion, energy and heart on Hunger Action Day and every day. It was an amazing experience and I hope you will join us next year!

If you want to learn more about the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano’s advocacy efforts and how you can help, please contact me at lsherrill@foodbankccs.org.

Congressman Garamendi Visits the Food Bank

At a time of record need and our Food Bank and partner agencies are stretched thin, cuts to nutrition assistance would be devastating for struggling families and our community. Charity simply cannot make up the difference if programs like SNAP, the Emergency Food Assistance Program, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, or WIC is cut.

We appreciate the support for these programs from Congressman John Garamendi and for the time he took to visit our warehouse in Fairfield this week. After spending just  an hour with him, it is obvious that fighting for the nutritional needs of all Americans is important to him.

You can also help ensure vital nutrition programs are not cut by contacting your congressman and letting him/her know that local charities and government programs must work together to meet the need in our communities.

Find your Federal representative by visiting www.house.gov.

Governor Signs Bills to Help Fight Hunger

Governor Brown has signed a number of bills that will help improve access to the CalFresh program and reduce hunger in California. Anti-hunger advocates have much to celebrate this year, as legislation signed by the Governor will finally end fingerprint imaging in the CalFresh program — a change we have championed for almost a decade.

Governor Brown also signed AB 152, the bill the California Association of Food Banks sponsored to create a tax credit for crop donations and the framework for a state emergency food assistance program. A summary of hunger-related bills signed or vetoed by Governor Brown is listed below.

Bills Signed by Governor Brown

AB 6 (Fuentes) – ends fingerprint imaging in CalFresh; moves CalFresh and CalWORKs from quarterly to simplified semi-annual reporting; creates “heat & eat” initiative to streamline paperwork and increase benefits for a significant number of households.

AB 69 (Beall) – allows counties to utilize Social Security information to facilitate and streamline senior enrollment in CalFresh.

AB 152 (Fuentes) – creates a tax credit for fresh fruits and vegetables donated by California growers to California food banks; creates the framework for a state emergency food assistance program.

AB 402 (Skinner) – authorizes school districts to work with county social services agencies to develop a fast track from a free or reduced-price school meal program application to a CalFresh program application.

AB 581 (Pérez) – creates the California Healthy Food Financing Initiative to expand access to healthy foods in underserved communities.

AB 959 (Jones) – aligns CalWORKs reporting requirements with CalFresh and Medi-Cal by allowing aid to be reinstated if a report is submitted within 30 days of the due date.

SB 43 (Liu) – removes mandatory employment and training requirements in the CalFresh program when the state or sub-region is federally determined to have a work surplus (high unemployment).

Bills Vetoed by Governor Brown

AB 1182 (Hernández) – would have excluded the value of a vehicle when determining eligibility for the CalWORKs program, a procedure already implemented in the CalFresh program.

For more information about these bills or how you can help take action against hunger, please contact me (Lisa Sherrill) at (925) 676-7543 extension 206 or lsherrill@foodbankccs.org.