One of the top legislative priorities for Congress is to address the reauthorization of theFarm Bill in 2018. The Farm Bill is an enormous piece of legislation that determines a broad range of food and agriculture policy from the livelihood of farmers and funding for rural development to efforts surrounding food insecurity and nutrition. Among the particular programs funded through the farm bill is SNAP or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly know as food stamps. The proposed bill would cut the food assistance program by $20 billion and add strict work and reporting requirements for recipients of food stamps. Should this version of the bill pass, up to 2 million people may no longer be eligible for SNAP. This after passing the largest tax cut in history, most of the benefit of which will accrue to the wealthy. It is therefore necessary to remember the role to be played by people of faith to witness and advocate in solidarity with the least of these who rely on this entitlement program to access a dignified life. Indeed, our mandate as Presbyterians is clear in the Confession of 1967 which states
“The reconciliation of humankind through Jesus Christ makes it plain that enslaving poverty in a world of abundance is an intolerable violation of God’s good creation….A church that is indifferent to poverty, or evades responsibility in economic affairs, or is open to one social class only, or expects gratitude for its beneficence makes a mockery of reconciliation and offers no acceptable worship to God.”
– The Confession of 1967 (Inclusive Language Version), Book of Confessions, 9.46
- Read the PC(USA) Principles for A Faithful Farm Bill and learn who benefits from SNAP in your state with this state-by-state fact sheet from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
- Make a Call to Or Send A Letter asking your members of Congress to Vote NO on H.R. 2, the Farm Bill!” 1-888-398-8702. You will be connected to your Representative’s office by putting in your zip code.
- Sign-on to a letter from the faith community. Read the Faithful Farm Bill Principles from the interfaith community and sign on to a cover letter to the principles to share with House and Senate members. The letter specifically opposes harmful SNAP proposals. This letter is open to national, state and local congregations and organizations. Deadline to sign on is Friday, May 11 at 3pm
- Use this guide and the talking points below to hold an in-district meeting with your member of Congress asking that they vote against harmful work requirements on SNAP in the Farm Bill
- Post on social media using the #HandsOffSNAP and #DefendSNAP hashtags, and use resources from our partner, RESULTS to get SNAP in the headlines with a letter to the editor
The first Farm Bill draft, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2), was filed in the House of Representatives on April 12, 2018 and passed through the House Agriculture Committee on April 18, 2018. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is deeply concerned that this legislation represents a fundamental and cruel shift in the reach and impact of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which would harm millions of Americans who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. We call on legislators to pass a Farm Bill that protects against hunger by strengthening SNAP and other federal nutrition assistance programs—not one that adds to the problem. We will continue to oppose any policies that hurt single mothers, children, military families, older Americans, rural communities and working people.
SNAP is the Nation’s Frontline Defense Against Hunger
- SNAP’s purpose has always been to provide a modicum of stability to prevent people who have fallen on hard times from starving.
- If enacted, this bill would increase hunger in this country, not help resolve the problem.
- Severe changes to SNAP are an attack on broad swaths of the American public, including older adults, single mothers, children, military families, people in rural communities, and the working poor.
SNAP Is Not a Jobs Program
- House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway and the Trump Administration want to reclassify SNAP and other public benefits as workforce development programs. SNAP was set up to be primarily a nutrition assistance program, and any efforts to alter that are harmful.
This Bill Reveals a Breakdown in Longstanding Bipartisanship
- While politicians say these changes aim to move people to “self-sufficiency,” the real effect of the bill will be to shrink the number of Americans enrolled in federal safety net programs.
- This ideologically-driven strategy favors reducing government spending to help poor Americans, without regard for the facts and circumstances that render people in need.
- Following the largest tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations in American history, it is galling to see these proposed cuts to programs that only help poor people survive.
SPECIFIC POLICY CONCERNS:
Work Requirements Will Harm Older Americans
- This Farm Bill would expand work requirements to include people between 50 and 59 years of age, and add harsh new penalties for those falling short of the work requirement.
- The millions of Americans who will be impacted are veterans who served our country, hard workers who live in economically depressed communities, and parents who have been laid off from stable manufacturing jobs due to plant closures.
- Older Americans face challenges reentering the workforce: research shows the average length of unemployment among job seekers 55 and older was over 54 weeks, five months longer than their younger counterparts.
- Under this bill, unemployed SNAP applicants would have 30 days to find a job or enter a work training program—or be dropped from the program. Without evidence to support the structural change, this would require creation of an unhelpful bureaucracy with insufficient funding in every state.
An Attack on Women and Children
- New work requirements represent an unprecedented attack on women and their children. New guidelines redefine “dependents” as children age six and below. This means parents with children older than age six would be subject to work requirements in order to receive SNAP benefits. Nearly 66% of children receiving SNAP live in single-parent households. With women making up more than 80% of single parents in the United States, households headed by women are disproportionately represented among those who receive SNAP benefits
- A glitch in existing law prevents many low-income military families from qualifying for SNAP. This technical error could be fixed by excluding a service member’s Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) from counting as income when determining eligibility for SNAP.
- Instead, the draft Farm Bill offers a confusing proposal to exclude only the first $500 of a service member’s BAH from counting as income for SNAP eligibility determination.
- This arbitrary proposal adds an additional layer of complication and falls far short of solving the problem, leaving thousands of military families behind.