Farm Bill action & State budget action

The Farm Bill & Congress members:

Both the House and Senate are planning to mark up new versions of the Farm Bill – the Senate may begin this week – so let’s get going (again)!

Neither the Senate nor House versions of the Farm Bill passed in the full Congress last year; with November’s elections, it’s a new Congress so they must begin again. The Farm Bill includes SNAP (food stamps, or Basic Food), TEFAP and CSFP (food for food banks) and Farmers Market Nutrition Program for Seniors.

 It’s time for a new Congress to start with a fresh Farm Bill that makes no cuts in programs that feed hungry families, especially SNAP.

For information about sustainable agriculture issues in the Farm Bill, please check out our partners’ priorities at Washington State Farmers Market Assoc. and Washington Sustainable Food & Farming Network.

What to know about the Senate:

The Senate Agriculture Committee will release their draft bill any day now.

Last Congress’s Senate Farm Bill cut $4.3 billion from SNAP by cutting the ‘Heat and Eat’ option. In Washington, that equals big cuts in food stamp benefits to more than a quarter million families, only adding to Washington’s hunger problem. We estimate 234,000 households will get $90 less (average) on their EBT cards for groceries each month if Congress eliminates this option.

This spring Committee chair Sen. Stabenow has made public comments that indicate she may be willing to give up food stamp benefits for certain low-income households.  We think that’s the wrong answer, and both our Senators agree: Sen. Cantwell – along with one-third of all Senators – signed Sen. Gillibrand’s (NY) letter in support of SNAP funding; Sen. Murray, as Senate Majority leadership, has also been strongly supportive of no cuts to food stamps in the Farm Bill or the budget.

What to know about the House:

The House Agriculture Committee will release a Farm Bill proposal after the Senate – maybe in the next 2 weeks. Last Congress created a House Farm Bill so controversial it never came to a vote because it cut $16.5 billion from SNAP.

In addition to cutting ‘Heat and Eat’, last year the House also eliminated ‘Categorical Eligibility’ – mostly working poor families with children and seniors on fixed incomes would be cut off food stamps altogether. We estimate 88,000 households in Washington would no longer have any SNAP benefits.

Yet some House members have been saying they would like to cut more this year: up to $20 billion from SNAP. Because this is much higher than last year, details on those cuts are not clear until the House releases its proposal soon.

What is clear – no Farm Bill would be better than one that cuts SNAP.

What to do now: Take Action

In the 14th hungriest state in the country, with demand at food banks up 35% and further state and local cuts to the safety net expected, Washington families deserve for a new Congress to start with a fresh Farm Bill that makes no cuts in SNAP.

Spend 3 minutes thinking about 2 clients (or students or patients or friends) that you know SNAP benefits helped in some way. What improved for them? How did it make a difference? What would happen if they soon had $90 less – or all their SNAP was gone?

Ask your Congress member (via phone, fax, email) to protect and strengthen SNAP. Make this contact to your lawmakers personal – explain how important SNAP has been to those 2 clients. Ask them to reject SNAP cuts, whether those are included in a 2013 Farm Bill or other legislative vehicles in the new Congress.

Thank Sen. Cantwell, Reps. McDermott, Smith and now Heck for signing letter/ co-sponsoring support of SNAP funding. Urge other House Members to co-sponsor H. Res. 90.

Olympia: Closing Tax Loopholes and Funding Services

After 105 days of session, legislators are facing off in overtime over one high-stakes question: What’s a higher priority: preserving tax loopholes that don’t serve the public interest, or ample funding for education and saving critical services that help ensure families don’t go hungry?

Legislators are in the middle of two weeks of critical budget negotiations that will determine the direction of our budget and our state. There is only one way to move them to support our agenda: pressure from their constituents. Now is the time to flood legislator’s inboxes with support for a budget that puts our kids and our communities first.

Take Action:

Print the attached plate with our priorities, add a personal message, and send to your legislator before special session begins on May 13.

When you contact your legislators, ask them: PLEASE close costly tax loopholes!

The House and Senate have passed two very different budgets. The Senate budget doesn’t close a single tax loophole. It makes inadequate investments in education and does so at the expense of many critical safety services. The House budget, by comparison, takes the approach recommended by Gov. Inslee to make a substantial investment in education and most critical services by closing tax loopholes and extending parts of the 2010 revenue package.

The House budget isn’t perfect – they need to increase funding for State Food Assistance at least as much as the Senate budget does. But the House takes the right approach of tax reform and reflects our value of putting the people of Washington before costly tax loopholes.

Let your legislators know you support a budget that closes tax loopholes to fund education and critical services for hungry families.

Thank you. These next few days and weeks are critical, and every action you take is getting us closer to more fair, healthy futures for hungry families. Call me or email if you have any questions.

Claire Lane

(206) 830-7642