Hungry Kids and Veterans

By Beacon Staff

The U.S. House finally allowed the president to sign a five-year Farm Bill. Much of the agricultural weather risk policy is good news for farmers producing crops like wheat, barley, corn, or soy. Even milk producers gained access to subsidized crop insurance.

The Farm Bill is a funding mechanism for the food and farm policy of the United States. Time will tell how the USDA interprets and implements the law. Sen. Debbie Stabenow insisted her bill was reform and “not your father’s Farm Bill.”

Last week House Republicans were irate at a major provision of the Farm Bill because the GOP’s cuts to food stamp programs may not materialize in several states, including Montana.

House Speaker John Boehner recently said, “Since the passage of the Farm Bill, states have found ways to cheat once again on signing up for people for food stamps.” Boehner is less concerned with billionaire tax cheats but focuses on hungry kids and veterans who receive dollars per day in food aid.

Likely not many Montanans or even members of Congress read the 949-page Farm Bill and accompanying Congressional Budget Office scoring. The states that avoided cuts to food in feeding hungry kids and veterans did exactly what the Farm Bill’s plain language said to do.

Recently, actor Jeff Bridges joined Gov. Steve Bullock and Darby school students to eat breakfast. Bridges and Bullock were promoting school breakfast programs that can be used across the nationwide to help hungry kids get better access to breakfast. Bullock said, “When you’re hungry, it’s hard to get creative ideas going.”

Bridges and Bullock are leaders in helping more hungry Montanans gain access to much-needed food. House Republicans are ignoring the simple fact that most of the hungry getting access to food are kids and veterans.

Montana is lucky that Sen. Jon Tester helped pass the more Senate-oriented version of the Farm Bill. The House and Rep. Steve Daines originally slashed hunger programs by $40 billion and allowed polluters to spray potent chemicals directly adjacent to rivers, streams and lakes threatening wild fish.

Montanans are lucky that Tester knows how to get stuff done and that Bullock had the smarts and leadership skills to do exactly what Congress’ farm and food policy intended.

Firebrand ideologues in Washington will continue to demagogue and argue ad nauseam about solving poverty but Bullock demonstrated that it is not hard to feed hungry kids.

The next Farm Bill can be better, no doubt about it. But some of the current policy that helps beginner farmers and school lunch programs is encouraging. Land conservation and aid to local food pantries fared better.

Montana’s grain growers gained access to huge crop insurance subsidies and disaster aid to ranchers is back big. There’s significant funding directed at fighting climate-related wildfires and bark beetle infestation that plagues our federal lands.

Congress could do much more to help grow more small local farms across the nation. More small local farms keep America safer with a secure and nutritious local food supply.

Republicans like Boehner are using food stamps as the midterm election’s red meat to attract conservative base voters. In low turnout midterm elections that’s an effective GOP campaign strategy. It’s not unlike the barrage of misinformation blabbered about healthcare.

If the House was really concerned about cheating or waste Boehner would focus more on the billions allocated to crops like tobacco and cotton and less on the meager $4.50 per day helping feed hungry kids and veterans.

The House also opposes raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment insurance, or extending Medicaid healthcare to the poor. But food stamps programs like SNAP simply feed hungry kids and veterans.