Farm Bill hypocrisy mean more subsidies for the rich, greater food insecurity for the poor
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From farm to fork, America’s food system should be one we are proud of. It should make sure that hungry Americans are able to put food on their table when they need it most, it should ensure that farmers have a reasonable safety net when Mother Nature strikes, and it should ensure that animals and crops are produced in ways that are safe for farmworkers and the environment.

The Farm Bill – passed by Congress every five years – should reflect those goals.

Unfortunately, the Republican Farm Bill (H.R. 2) that the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on this week could not be farther from the goal.

The misguided, stricter work requirements proposed for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) has rightfully received the bulk of the attention from lawmakers who are following the Farm Bill. These sweeping changes would reduce or eliminate benefits for more than 1 million households and more than 2 million people, jeopardizing the effectiveness of our country’s most successful anti-hunger program.

Yet the systematic changes being proposed to SNAP are even more alarming because when it comes to controversial farm subsidies, the Republican Farm Bill would make it even easier for wealthy individuals or members of corporations to collect farm subsidies without being subject to more stringent work requirements like those proposed in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent budget.

The Congressional Budget Office’s recent analysis has found that federal spending on farm subsidies are now likely to cost almost $12.6 billion more than originally anticipated when lawmakers passed the 2014 Farm Bill. And farm subsidy programs are so skewed to the wealthy that the top 10 percent of farms – or about 76,000 farms – received over 60 percent of all farm subsidies.

Under current law many farms receive more than $1 million in subsidies annually, and the share of subsidies that go to the largest farm businesses with gross cash farm incomes above $1 million annually has increased from 11 percent in 1991 to 35 percent in 2015.

Now new analysis of federal data by the Environmental Working Group finds that nearly 18,000 individuals living in the nation’s 50 largest cities like New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago received more than $63 million in farm subsidies in 2015 and 2016.

With thousands of individuals receiving farm subsidies without living or working on farms, you would expect that Congress would jump at the idea of applying stricter work requirements to ensure that only farmers get farm subsidies.

But you’d be wrong.

The House Republican Farm Bill would take our nation’s bloated farm subsidy system and create new loopholes that will allow corporate farms to evade payment limits and means testing while at the same time allow cousins, nieces and nephews of farmers to collect farm subsidies regardless of whether they live or work on the farm.

House Republicans often talk about wanting to lift people out of poverty when they mention their stricter work requirements for SNAP. Thankfully that is already at the core of the program. According to the Urban Institute, SNAP removed 8.4 million people from poverty in 2015.

The simple fact being neglected in the current farm bill debate is that SNAP already requires working-age adults to register for work and accept a job if offered. And, individuals aged 18-49 without children can only participate in SNAP for three months out of every three years unless they are working 20 hours per week – a policy that has led many poor participants to lose SNAP benefits.

Why would House Republicans support a bill that subjects struggling Americans to even stricter work requirements while making it even easier for people who don’t live or work on farms to be eligible for farm subsidies?

DeLauro represents Connecticut’s 3rd District and is ranking member of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee.