Time to Step Up to Protect Children, Family Farmers, Seniors, Veterans, Armed Forces and Farmers Markets from Cruel, Destructive Farm Bill

We’re nearing the homestretch now in the effort to ensure Congress passes a Farm Bill that protects children, Family Farmers, seniors, veterans, and active duty military personnel. Congress must be pressured to preserve shared federal, state and local authority over safe food, land and water resources, as well.

The House GOP bill is an $867 billion package that sets spending for the next 10 years. Despite rising cost of living, it’s $90 billion less than the enacted 2014 Farm Bill, according to the Congressional Budget Office analysis.

Just like the $1.5 trillion tax cut that primarily helps corporations and billionaires, the GOP House Farm Bill is a gift to “Big Ag,” favoring industrial farming over Family Farmers and the Locally Grown Movement. The best chance we have for a fair Farm Bill remains in the Senate, where reaching the 60 votes needed for passage won’t allow for the draconian legislation that House Republicans have crafted.

Gutting a System that Ensures Safe, Plentiful Food and Agriculture Resources

House Republicans seem to reject the idea that safe and plentiful food production in the U.S. depends on smart local policies that set global standards. The House GOP bill would reverse the progress we’ve made toward protecting resources needed to ensure prosperous and safe agriculture.

Land, water, and wildlife vital to the Rural Economy all take a hit under the shorted House bill. The House GOP Farm Bill wipes out $150 million mandatory funding for rural development programs, including drinking water and wastewater infrastructure improvements.

Local authority over agricultural production and manufacturing standards also are eliminated under the House GOP farm Bill if similar products are produced elsewhere under less stringent standards. One Republican amendment added to the House Farm Bill would eliminate thousands of state and local laws, including food safety and labeling regulations. So much for all the promises of protecting states rights.

Wiping Out Initiatives that Promote Family Farming and the Rural Economy

The House Farm Bill cuts funding for first-time farmers by eliminating the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance program and Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion program by providing no mandatory funding. Many experts in the field consider those programs a gateway for expanding women-run farms and ranches. The House GOP Bill also falls short of protecting and promoting certified organic farming, as well.

In addition, the House Republican legislation all but turns out the lights on the Rural Energy for America program, even as sustainable energy programs are creating jobs and revenue for Rural America.

There is even a not-so-subtle attempt to undermine participation in the Affordable Care Act by offering a grossly underfunded program that would allow the USDA to create healthcare associations. These associations would mostly require insurers to pay for minimal healthcare coverage, forcing farmers and rural families to pay more out of pocket. While we’re left asking the question, “What does the USDA know about health insurance,” the GOP scheme would be taking resources out of the existing healthcare pools. Everybody – Rural, Urban and Suburban Americans – all would end up paying more for healthcare if this program were to run its course.

Taking Food Out of Mouths of Children, Disabled, Seniors, and Veterans; and Forced Work-to-Eat Programs

Millions of Americans will go hungry as a result of the House GOP Farm bill. Even before we consider the GOP’s forced work program included in the House bill, a change in eligibility requirements means more than 2 million Americans will have food taken from their tables, and another quarter of a million children will lose their school lunches. About 75% of the Farm Bill funds nutrition programs.

When we consider the forced work programs in the GOP Farm Bill it’s clear they will cause unnecessary pain for our most valued citizens, including the elderly, veterans and physically challenged Americans. More than 10 million Americans over the age of 50 currently get help buying groceries thanks to the Farm Bill, as do about  23,000 active duty military personnel and 1.5 million veterans and their families. Two-thirds of physically challenged Americans so far are unable to join the workforce. How can they eat under the Republican forced work program?

It’s clear the GOP architects of this scheme are not concerned with solving the problem for the working poor in America. If they were serious about patching the gaping hole in the American Safety Net they would include provisions to raise the minimum wage and invest in childcare, affordable healthcare, and practical skills training. Instead, they offer a cheap way to make headlines aimed at appeasing their followers and a few deep-pocketed oligarchs who hide behind a distorted libertarian facade.

(Updated with active duty statistics)

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