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sensible commentary from community food security coalition

Posted: November 23 2011

With the Super Committee Failure, Advocates Look Toward the Farm Bill
Yesterday, the chairs of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction announced that the panel was unable to reach an agreement on a deficit reduction plan to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal budget over 10 years. In the past few weeks, both the Democrats and Republicans on the panel have put forward several plans. At the last minute, Republicans offered a plan to reduce spending by $643 billion with only $3 billion in tax increases. This proposal would have cut $216 billion in domestic spending, $100 billion from defense, raised non-tax revenues through fees and sales, and saved $98 billion interest. The plan was far from ideal because it targeted programs that provide education, job training, housing, and public health that serve low- and moderate-income people.

Any effective deficit reduction plan would include measures to create jobs, increase revenue, and include spending cuts that spare low-income and vulnerable people from harm by cutting funding to essential programs. CFSC commends members of the Super Committee who rejected proposals that would cut benefits and services to participants of programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and weaken our economy.
The Future of the Farm Bill
The next steps with the Farm Bill are uncertain. The Chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees had sought to fast-track the Farm Bill through the Super Committee. Now that the Super Committee has failed, the current Farm Bill could be extended beyond its September 30, 2012 expiration, or the Farm Bill could undergo a normal legislative process—albeit constrained by deficit-reduction measures.
Last week, the Ag Committee leaders completed their recommendations to the Super Committee for the Farm Bill. These recommendations were never submitted, as it became clear that the Super Committee process was unraveling. However, a summary document was leaked and is now in the public domain. These recommendations could be a starting point for debate on the next Farm Bill.
Notable parts of the proposal were:
  • More than $4 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
  • Approximately $6.5 billion in cuts to conservation programs.
  • Commodity reform, including elimination of direct payments (for an estimated savings of $15 billion) and changes in crop insurance.
  • Increased funding for Community Food Projects (CFP) and the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP).
  • New funding for grants to provide incentives for SNAP participants to purchase fruit and vegetables.
This proposal included important policy changes that would incentivize purchasing of fruits and vegetables, maintain funding for nutrition education, support local and regional markets for healthy food, and strengthen community food systems. Several key elements of the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act (S. 1773, H.R. 3286), which now has more than 60 cosponsors in the House and Senate, seem to have been incorporated.
However, the proposed cuts to SNAP would have significantly reduced monthly benefits for individuals and families living in poverty, limiting their ability to afford enough nutritious food. In addition, the fast-tracked process and lack of transparency severely curtailed public participation -- at a time when interest in food and farm issues is rising.
For further background on past Super Committee proposals and CFSC’s Farm Bill priorities, read our most recent update.
red hook, new york