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Article published July 15, 2013
Don’t split farm bill
Ken Regal Executive Director, Just Harvest: A Center for Action Against Hunger Pittsburgh
Your editorial (“Food stamps have evolved into farm bill Frankenstein,” July 11) is so wildly incorrect about the facts that it undermines the conclusions you draw and the opinions you use these “facts” to defend. Your claim that 101 million Americans receive food stamps is off by an astonishing 53 million. The real number, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is 47,661,353 as of April. Your conclusions that this represents 1 in 3 Americans and more than the total number of private sector employees in the U.S. economy are similarly off-base. Separating the entire Nutrition Title — not only food stamps — from the rest of the farm bill breaks a 40-year bipartisan consensus; your claim that the farm bill is just too “complex” suggests Congress did this for the sake of “simplicity;” in fact, no one in Congress thought this simplification was important until after the whole bill was voted down by the House a few weeks ago. Splitting the farm bill in two was never about simplification — it was about the Republican leadership trying to save face after an embarrassing defeat. As recently as last week, even Frank Lucas, Republican chairman of the Agriculture Committee which wrote the bill, was publicly opposed to the division of the bill. Did the bill suddenly become “too complex” for the very people who wrote it? It is much more consistent with the facts to conclude that after the full bill failed, House Leaders including Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan wanted to appease their most conservative members with even deeper cuts that take food out of the mouths of hungry families. They didn’t have the votes the first time, but couldn’t risk offending the recipients of generous farm subsidies — including some Congresspeople themselves — who are the real “takers” feeding at the public tough. Consider U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.): $5.1 million in farm subsidy payments to his family over 17 years. Or Rep. Steve Fincher (R-Tenn.), whose farm subsidies have been at least $80,000 per year since 1998. Both of them support drastic cuts to food stamps, but voted yes on the Farm Bill. We encourage you to correct your facts and reconsider your opinions. And we encourage your readers to call their representatives in Congress and tell them to vote no on cuts to our community’s more important tool in protecting our most vulnerable neighbors from hunger.