Essentially, the thrust of the story is this: In order to avoid making steep cuts to farm subsidies (one of the few good ideas Bush has had), the Republican leadership in the House and Senate are considering cutting food aid programs for the poor.
The text follows below, along with my comments.
By LIBBY QUAID, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - Cuts in food programs for the poor are getting support in Congress as an alternative to President Bush's idea of slicing billions of dollars from the payments that go to large farm operations.
Senior Republicans in both the House and Senate are open to small reductions in farm subsidies, but they adamantly oppose the deep cuts sought by Bush to hold down future federal deficits.
The president wants to lower the maximum subsidies that can be collected each year by any one farm operation from $360,000 to $250,000. He also asked Congress to cut by 5 percent all farm payments, and he wants to close loopholes that enable some growers to annually collect millions of dollars in subsidies.
Most people are probably not aware that farm subsidies (one of the largest welfare expenditures in the country) go mainly to large farm conglomorations and agricorps. Individual "small farm" families do not receive the majority of these subsidies, despite what farm-state politicos might want you to believe.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said the $36 billion food stamp program is a good place to look for savings.
"There's not the waste, fraud and abuse in food stamps that we used to see. ... That number is down to a little over 6 percent now," he said. "But there is a way, just by utilizing the president's numbers, that we can come up with a significant number there."
Bush is proposing to withdraw food stamps for certain families already receiving other government assistance. The administration estimates that plan would remove more than 300,000 people from the rolls and save $113 million annually.
Unfortunately, statistics also show that such programs only propel families into the "working poor class," from whence they will return to poverty at least once, if not more. In addition, most welfare programs are limited in scope and time-duration for eligibility. For example, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families covers up to the first three children and only for a total of five years (even if only one child benefitted from the whole five). As far as "abuse" goes... well, food stamps are only good for certain items in certain quantities. You can't just roll down to Safeway or Albertson's and pile up on booze with them.
No agribusiness left behind.
The House and Senate plan to vote on initial versions of the budget next week.
Anti-hunger and environmental groups are worried.
"Particularly in the House, the members are talking about taking all or most of it from nutrition," said Jim Weill, president of the Washington-based Food Research and Action Center. "There isn't a way to do it that doesn't hurt, because the program's very lean and doesn't give people enough anyhow. The benefits are less than people need. The program's not reaching even three-fifths of the people who are eligible. And the abuse rate is very low and is going down further."
Eric Bost, the Agriculture Department's undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer programs, told a House appropriations panel this week the programs are so efficient now it would be difficult to save money by targeting waste and fraud.
Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said food stamps are vital to many Americans, "but like all government programs, there are ways to save money."
Maybe he hasn't heard that one in five of all children in this country benefits from some sort of federally funded (direct, indirect, or in-kind) nutrition program? Explain to me the logic or compassion behind punishing children. Please?
Before finalizing its budget plan, the Senate Budget Committee approved language saying Congress should follow Bush's plan for cutting the maximum payments any one farmer can receive. That would hurt cotton and rice growers in the South and California much more than wheat, soybean and corn growers in the farm belt.
"This amendment just makes sense," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who sponsored the measure with Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D. "Any reduction in farm spending should be achieved by better targeting farm program payments to small- and medium-sized farmers."
Because companies like Monsanto are so hindered by their size they fail to navigate the market. They OBVIOUSLY need help more than than the small farms.
That would be because most of the other producers are sharecroppers for large corporations.
"If you took a vote tomorrow, you'd have overwhelming support for the payment limit proposal," said Scott Faber, spokesman for the group Environmental Defense. "The overwhelming majority of farmers get less than $250,000 a year."
But the chairmen of the Senate and House agriculture committee are both southerners, as is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, where the actual spending decisions will be made. The appropriations chairman in the House is a Californian.
Congress ought to change it's name to La Cosa fucking Nostra.