A Good Farm Bill is Something We All Care About

Jun 20, 2013
Comment from Cleaver

We all like to eat. And we all certainly know it is necessary for good health and survival.

That basic knowledge begins to explain why the Farm Bill debates taking place in Washington at this very moment -- are so crucial.

I will readily admit, there are many things that go on in Washington, that might anger or frustrate you. They certainly do that to me.

But when it comes to the Farm Bill, we are at a critical juncture.

We NEED to pass a good, complete, and comprehensive five-year Farm Bill. I don’t need to tell you that this is long overdue. I don’t need to tell you this is the right thing to do. And I don’t need to tell you farmers and ranchers are the economic engines of the massive, job-creating, food-growing, nutrition- providing, agriculture industry in this country.

Not to mention, eating food grown by farmers and ranchers here at home, means less dependence on other countries that may not have or enforce safety standards present in the United States.

But I would like to discuss some particulars of the Farm Bill the House of Representatives is getting ready to vote on. There are parts of it that I like very much. Thankfully the issue I fought for these last few months, retroactive livestock disaster assistance for farmers that were hit by the drought in 2012, has been included in the House bill.  Many of those farmers in Missouri and the  Fifth Congressional District were hit hard by the extended drought, and it is only right that assistance be provided to them, just as it is for crop producers. I applaud committee leaders for listening to my, and other Members’ , pleas to include that language.   I am also in favor of the expansion of the Farmers Market Promotion Program to fund regional food distribution center to help farmers get their products to various local markets. I will work to see that those issues, and others, make it into the final law.

I am very concerned, however, about the proposed $20.5 billion in cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). What people throughout the Fifth District of Missouri understand quite clearly, but some in Washington can’t seem to get, is that SNAP helps farmers and ranchers with a market for their crops. While, at the same time, it provides nutritional food to, primarily children, the elderly, and the disabled. Folks who, without SNAP assistance, may very likely go without. Shame on us. 

*22 million recipients of SNAP are children

*9 million recipients of SNAP are elderly or disabled

This farm-food connection is a symbiotic relationship between rural, urban, and suburban communities that cannot, and should not, be demonized by political posturing, myth misers, or fact-free debate.

One of those myths is that recipients of SNAP only come from urban areas.  For instance, Jackson County has almost 13% participation in SNAP. Saline County has almost 15% participation in SNAP. Poverty knows no boundaries.

Cuts proposed in the current House bill would mean children throughout the Fifth District would no longer be eligible for free school meals. For many kids, this is the only full meal they get each day. And we want to take that away? Shame on us.

Good government, in my opinion, is about compromise. I want to work through the regular order process so that the House bill, along with the one already passed by the Senate, can move forward, go to conference, and we can sit down, talk, and compromise.

I pledge to work my hardest in Washington to promote a depth of understanding that nutrition programs help assure the economic success of farmers and ranchers, and promote the health of those using them.

In the end – if you like to eat – a good Farm Bill is something we all care about.