Reject any Farm Bill that cuts SNAP and fails to protect the environment

 

Senator Diane Feinstein

SF Office: (415) 393-0707
DC Office: (202) 224-3841
LA Office: (310) 914-7300
Fresno Office: (559) 485-7430
San Diego Office: (619) 231-9712

If you can't get through to one office, try another.  There is no benefit to calling one office over another.  Leaving a voicemail is as good as reaching a live person. 

Senator Kamala Harris

SF Office: (415) 981-9369
DC Office: (202) 224-3553
Sacramento Office: (916) 448-2787
LA Office: (213) 894-5000
San Diego Office: (619) 239-3884

Call the SF office first, but try the other offices if you can’t get through. If you can’t get a live person, leave a voicemail and also send a follow-up email written in your own words.

 

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Leader Nancy Pelosi

SF Office: (415) 556-4862

DC Office: (202) 225-4965

Call the SF office first, but try the DC office if you can’t get through. If you get voicemail, hang up and try a few more times to talk to a real person. Don’t give up! Short direct messages are most effective.

Rep. Jackie Speier

San Mateo Office: (650) 342-0300

DC Office: (202) 225-3531

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Call Script

My name is __________. I am a constituent, and my zip code is _______. I am a member of Indivisible SF.

If the Farm Bill conference committee reports back legislation for a floor vote, we urge the [Senator or Representative] to reject any bill that:

  • Cuts the number of Americans participating in the SNAP program.

  • Prevents counties and cities from regulating the use of pesticides and factory farms.

  • Rolls back protections in the Clean Water Act.

  • Reduces or weakens the Conservation Stewardship Program.

  • Guts environmental protection for national forests to expedite logging and mining.

  • Continues to subsidize millionaire farmers and billion dollar agriculture corporations.

  • Fails to ensure that subsidies go to actual farmers by narrowing the “Active Management” loophole.


Background

Every five years Congress enacts a Farm Bill. It's primary purpose is to subsidize and (to a degree)  regulate the agriculture industry. The Farm Bill bill is enormously important to rural America.

Both House and Senate have passed different versions of the bill. A conference committee is trying to hammer out a compromise version that will then be voted up or down in each chamber with no amendments allowed. The House version (HR.2 Agriculture and Nutrition Act) which was rammed through by a razor-thin, two-vote margin over the objection of every single Democrat and 20 Republicans contained a number of policy changes that most Democrats fiercely opposed. The Senate version did not include those sections. Both versions contained corporate-welfare provisions.

It is not clear whether or not the conference committee will be able to come up with a compromise bill to submit for a floor vote, nor is it absolutely certain that if they do come up with a compromise it will inevitably pass (though the odds are that it will). The previous Farm Bill expires at midnight, Sunday, September 30. If they do not pass a new Farm Bill (or a continuing resolution) by then a few programs might shut down immediately and a few other programs would continue under the long out-dated terms of laws passed in 1938 and 1949. Most programs would continue to operate as usual using their 2018 funding and therefore for them the real deadline is the end of the year. Should those programs shut down on January 1, 2019, there could be enormous economic consequences to rural areas.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The SNAP program (ALA “food stamps”) helps alleviate hunger and malnutrition for 42 million  Americans. SNAP is our most effective anti-hunger program. It helps 1 our of every 8 Americans  put food on the table, especially children, seniors, and people with disabilities. The actual benefit amount is modest, an average of about $1.40 per person per meal, yet SNAP has played a major role in reducing food insecurity and poverty. It also provides an important market for American farm products and a source of income for farmers.

Having passed their massive Tax Scam bill cutting taxes on billionaires and giant corporations, Republicans intend pay for their gifts to the obscenely wealthy by enacting deep cuts to the social safety net. If they get away with it on SNAP, other programs like Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, housing assistance, education funding, and so on will surely follow.

But because SNAP is funded through the annual congressional appropriations process, Republicans can't use the Farm Bill to kill the SNAP program outright, so they're trying to change the eligibility requirements to slash  the number of people receiving benefits. To that end, the House version of the Farm Bill contains provisions that will cut or eliminate food assistance for as many as two million Americans including 469,000 households with young children, 677,000 households with one or more elderly recipients, and  214,000 households with disabled person. In addition, another provision imposing expanded work requirements could cut benefits from as many as 1.2 million more beneficiaries.

Environmental Issues

The House version of the Farm Bill prohibits counties and cities from regulating or restricting pesticide use such as aerial spraying over residential neighborhoods, poisoning ponds and waterways, or spaying toxic chemicals on farm fields near schools, hospitals, and public parks.  

The House version exempts pesticide pollution from the Clean Water Act, even though pesticides have contributed to water pollution across the country. It also eliminates a requirement that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service analyze a pesticide’s harm to the nation’s 1,800 protected species before the Environmental Protection Agency can approve it for general use. And it overturns the Clean Water Act’s requirement that corporations and people applying pesticides directly into lakes, rivers and streams – including drinking water sources – first have to obtain a permit.

The House version guts the Conservation Stewardship Program which provides financial incentives for farmers to implement environmental-protection practices such as providing habitat for wild bees and other beneficial insects, planting cover crops to keep soil and fertilizer in place over the winter, and creating buffer strips that prevent soil erosion from severe-weather storms.

The House version strips away environmental protections from national forests so as to expedite logging and mining, including eliminating nearly all protections for the irreplaceable old-growth forests in Alaska. The legislation also contains nearly 50 separate provisions that would eliminate all public input in land-management decisions currently provided by the National Environmental Policy Act.

Corporate Welfare

The original Farm Bill enacted during the Great Depression in 1933 was intended to help save small family farmers from bankruptcy, provide a minimum standard of living for the rural poor, alleviate hunger nationwide by providing food to the unemployed, and protect the land from environmental ravages like the dust storms. Since then, however, it has become a bloated feeding trough of corporate welfare that primarily benefits large Agro-Business corporations and wealthy farmers. The few remaining small and struggling family farms get little more than the crumbs.

Though anti-corporatists,  free-marketers, and libertarians tried to scale back the corporate-welfare provisions in both the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill they had little success. Efforts by environmentalists and food activists to redirect subsidies towards healthy and environmentally friendly crops and practices were also largely unsuccessful.

Under current law, farmers with more than $900,000 in annual income—$1.8 million for couples—are barred from receiving crop subsidies. But the House version proposes a loophole exempting certain farm partnerships, joint ventures, “S” or “LLC” corporations from that means test.

Some versions of the new Farm Bill expand the definition of “family members” eligible to receive subsidies to include first-cousins, nieces, and nephews.

Another issue is the “active management” loophole through which family members who by no measure of common sense are truly “farmers” can claim up to $125,000 per year in subsidies without ever setting foot on the actual farm by claiming to provide advice and guidance from afar. In one extreme case, a farm with 34 partners claimed 25 active managers (10 of whom had subsidy-eligible spouses). It received $3.7 million in subsidies. As one observer put it, “Any visit to farm country will get you countless stories of kids, siblings, grandkids, or great uncles, who 'actively manage' a farm from their dorm room, desk in the city hundreds of miles away, or deck chair in that Florida retirement community.”

Information Sources:

What Happens If There Is No New Farm Bill By October 1? (Farm Bill Law organization)

About 2 Million Low-Income Americans Would Lose Benefits Under House Farm Bill, (NY Times, September 2018))

House farm bill passes with controversial food stamp changes (Politico, June 2018)

House Passes Farm Bill With Controversial Work Requirements (NPR, June 2018)

Congress Should Reject Pesticide-Laden Farm Bill (U.S. PIRG, June 2018)

Legislation Guts Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, Public Lands Protections (Center for Biologic Diversity, June 2018)

Farm Bill With Huge Giveaways to Pesticide Industry Passes House (EcoWatch, June 2018)

5 Ways House Farm Bill Would Roll Back Protections from Pesticides (AgMag, April 2018)

Efforts to curb subsidies in farm bill fall short (Politico, August 2018)

The Farm Bill Divide (Taxpayers for Common Sense, August 2018)

Cousins, Nieces, and Nephews Eligible for Taxpayer Funded Subsidies (Tax Payer for Common Sense, April 2018)

The House Is Trying to Sneak These Controversial Changes Into the Farm Bill (Mother Jones, September, 2019)