Stand and Be Heard

Cross-posted from Community Food and Justice Coalition

By Y. Armando Nieto

Its time to Stand and be Heard, and that means each of us. If you bear with me, I’ll explain.

To begin, I want to reflect on my personal history to lend perspective to the request for your personal action now.

In the 60’s and 70’s, when I was a young activist, we were paranoid about signing our names on to any list—for the same reason, you could not find a tattoo on any of us—for fear of identification to the “man,” or others intent in their opposition to our issue—ending the war in Vietnam, voting rights, discrimination in the South and across the country, etc.

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Late Breaking Farm Bill Web Forum Archive

The President signed the 2014 Farm Bill into law today.

Yesterday, the Healthy Farms Healthy People Coalition hosted a Late Breaking Farm Bill Web Forum to present a range of perspectives on the final bill from a panel of agriculture, food, and nutrition policy experts.

Download the web forum.

Learn about the final 2014 Farm Bill and what its implications are for agriculture and the health of communities across America.


PHI Statement on Passage of Farm Bill

Cross-posted from Public Health Institute


“Today the President signed into law a new bipartisan farm bill that provides greater certainty for the country’s food and agriculture system, including many federal nutrition assistance programs, for the next five years.

“PHI is deeply disappointed in cuts that come at the expense of families already struggling to meet basic nutritional needs. This bill cuts Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, by $8.6 billion dollars, reducing benefit levels by about $90 per month for 850,000 SNAP households that also participate in the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Hunger remains a serious public health concern in every county in every state.

“Still, Congress came together to support other initiatives in the farm bill to improve access to affordable, quality nutrition for those most vulnerable to hunger. Funding levels for state SNAP nutrition education programs are maintained. SNAP retailer standards and stocking requirements are strengthened to ensure SNAP participants have access to more healthy choices when shopping with SNAP benefits. The Healthy Food Financing Initiative is authorized as a USDA program, increasing access to grocery stores and other food retailers in underserved communities. The bill also establishes a new initiative, Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Grants, which will incentivize SNAP participants to increase their purchase and consumption of fruits and vegetables.

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CFJC Perspective on the 2014 Farm Bill

Cross-posted from Community Food and Justice Coalition

By Jessy Gill and Y. Armando Nieto

Today, on February 7, President Obama signs into law the reconciled House and Senate 2014 Farm Bill.  After two expirations and years of deliberation we welcome the passage of a full bill, but not because it is a brilliant piece of legislation. Any government that cuts $8.5 billion in food aid (SNAP) for its children and families should be ashamed, no matter the justification or frame.

For CFJC and many others, the passage comes with frustrations and disappointments.

It is accepted practice that one measure of a successful piece of legislation is that no-one is entirely satisfied with the outcome. Certainly, there is no arguing that no single community- based or social welfare organization will be satisfied with cuts made to get the bill passed through both houses of Congress. At CFJC, we are happy that some equity provisions successfully made it through negotiations and into the final bill, but other programs were eliminated under the guise of “savings.”

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Presenting…Farm Bill 2014!

Cross-posted from Fair Food Network

By Kate Fitzgerald

While many of you may have been indulging in post-Super Bowl analysis or poring over winter Olympic viewing schedules, hard core Farm Bill aficionados have had their sites focused on Congress, where the truly historic occurred last night. The Senate passed the Agriculture Act of 2014 and it’s off to the White House to be signed by the President. The nearly 1,000 page bill sets much of the nation’s farm and food policy for the next several years at a cost of almost one trillion dollars.

For those who have followed this blog for the past three years, the first message is that the bill includes a new fruit and vegetable incentive program for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps). The Farm Bill authorizes USDA to establish the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive grant program and provides it $100 million over the next five years. There was broad bipartisan support for this provision based in large part on the success of Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks program (DUFB), which has been successful at helping low-income families eat more fruits and vegetables while also boosting farmer income.

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Farm Bill Conference Continues

Cross-posted from the American Farm Bureau Federation

Nov. 13, 2013—Not stopping to take a break during the House’s recent weeklong recess, the work of the top four farm bill negotiators rolls on, with Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) floating the possibility of a deal before the end of the month.  Joining Stabenow in the meetings are Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.).

Stabenow, Cochran, Peterson and Lucas are hardly going it alone though.  Numerous other conference committee members and their staff are sorting through the nearly two thousand pages of farm policy legislation produced by both chambers.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) spending is expected to be the biggest hurdle to clear in conference.  The Senate’s farm bill calls for a $4.1 billion reduction in SNAP funding over the next decade, compared to the House’s $40 billion in cuts.   Conferees have said little publicly about a strategy, but they are expected to be trying to find a level of SNAP reductions that would keep House and Senate Democrats on board, while getting enough support from House conservatives to send the bill to the president for his signature.  For his part, President Barack Obama has said numerous times that he’s anxious to sign off on the bill.

Despite critical differences in SNAP spending and a few other areas, the legislation approved by the Senate and the measure passed by the House both offer a basic-but-broad risk management platform supported by all types of farmers and ranchers in all regions. Among the balanced risk management strategy are options based both on crop prices and revenue levels.

Looking at the long list of similarities between the bills, both work to protect crop insurance and offer enhancements through new provisions such as the Supplemental Coverage Option, a program that allows farmers to purchase an area-triggered revenue or yield insurance product to cover the deductible associated with the underlying individual or area insurance policy.

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Snap-Ed Works

PHI snap-ed works infographic
Cross-posted from the Public Health Institute

1 in 3 children in the US are overweight or obese. Yet at the same time, 1 in 5 families struggle with food insecurity–not knowing from one day to the next whether their families will have enough to eat.

Nationally, SNAP and SNAP-Ed are working hand-in-hand to help support families to eat healthily. SNAP (food stamps) provides families with support in affording food; SNAP-Ed, the nutrition education program, helps SNAP and low-income families find, buy and prepare healthier foods on their limited budgets. From schools, to the YMCA, to farmer’s markets, SNAP-Ed works.

Our new SNAP-Ed infographic illustrates how critical SNAP-Ed is in supporting healthy eating: though it makes up just a fraction of SNAP funding, SNAP-Ed efforts are making a real difference.

Find out how you can take action to support SNAP-Ed.


Two things you can do today to make the American food system better: Part 2

Cross-posted from Fair Food Network  2012-8-22 market 0013

By Kate Fitzgerald

As we said yesterday, you can help create the food system you would like for this country. Today, let’s look at the second easy action you can take to make your voice heard as the government gets back up to speed.

USDA has a little problem with bad publicity for the SNAP program. Although the vast majority of stores and consumers are honest, the bit of fraud that occurs gives the program a bad name and can add up to a tidy sum of taxpayer dollars.

Most of the ‘trafficking’ happens in small stores, and the Agriculture Department is wrestling with ways to crack down on the bad actors without making it harder for low-income families to buy food. Convenience stores are often the only option for people who live in communities without full-service grocery stores, and no one wants to make it harder to buy milk or bread or an apple.

Some thoughts on what could help:

  • One obvious way to improve consumers’ access to affordable, nutritious food would be to make it easier for farmers’ markets, farmstands, CSA’s (community supported agriculture), and mobile markets to be authorized to accept SNAP benefits. There are more than 8,000 farmers’ markets in the U.S. but less than half accept SNAP benefits.
  • A big part of the problem is that there is just one application to accept SNAP benefits and it is completely inappropriate for non-traditional food retailers. Creating an application for farmers’ markets would allow USDA to collect the information it needs to ensure program integrity while allowing farmers to serve low-income customers.
  • USDA could also help SNAP participants choose healthy food by letting them know that their benefits can be used at many farmers’ markets. Most of USDA’s SNAP information is geared towards shopping at supermarkets, leaving many recipients thinking that they cannot use their benefits at markets. A second easy step would be for USDA to start giving equal promotional time to farm-direct healthy food retail. Why not tell the agency that?

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GOAT Statement on the House Farm Bill Passage

Cross posted from Community Food & Justice Coalition

July 16, 2013

The undersigned 243 groups from all parts of the country have joined together today to demand that Congress develop and pass a full and fair Farm Bill this summer, without further delay.  A full and fair Farm Bill must include farm, food and nutrition, conservation and rural economic development programs and commodity and crop insurance reforms. It must also provide renewed and enhanced funding for the now-stranded but critical subset of programs that assist the most chronically under-served segments of agriculture and our rural and urban communities. The House and Senate should immediately appoint conferees to work in an open and urgent fashion toward adopting a final full and fair Farm Bill this summer.

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House Approved Farm Bill Threatens Future of Farmland Conservation Programs

Cross posted from the Farm Policy Roundup

By Jeremy Peters

The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday voted by a margin of 216 to 208, taking the precarious step of passing a farm policy-only version of the Farm Bill that House leaders brought back to the floor. This modified version of the Farm Bill for the first time in 40 years did not include nutrition title programs, which comprise roughly 80 percent of spending under the original bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee. American Farmland Trust joined with more than 532 national, state and local organizations opposing splitting the Farm Bill into farm and nutrition components. Absence of nutrition title programs resulted in strong Democratic opposition to the historically bi-partisan Farm Bill with all Democrats voting against the modified bill.

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