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A friend of mine sent me this link to an AP story on Yahoo! News.

http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20050312/ap_on_go_co/food_farm_programs

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.

Congress Mulls Cutting Food Aid to Poor

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.

Instead, Republican committee chairmen are looking to carve savings from nutrition and land conservation programs that are also run by the Agriculture Department. The government is projected to spend $52 billion this year on nutrition programs like food stamps, school lunches and special aid to low-income pregnant women and children. Farm subsidies will total less than half that, $24 billion.

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.

Chambliss said minimal changes in all three areas of agriculture spending -- nutrition, farm supports and conservation -- could save what's needed. "I want this to be as painless to every farmer in America as we can make it," he said.

No agribusiness left behind.

House budget writers this week reduced Agriculture Department spending for 2006 by $5.3 billion. Their counterparts in the Senate cut it by $2.8 billion. Bush's proposals would cut farm spending by $8 billion as calculated by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (news - web sites).

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?

Chambliss and other Republicans say they are open to modest cuts in farm programs, such as a small across-the-board cut in all payments to growers. While budget writers and lawmakers from farm states oppose the deep cuts Bush wants, they still are very much on the table.

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.

According to Agriculture Department estimates, 78 percent of subsidies go to 8 percent of producers.

That would be because most of the other producers are sharecroppers for large corporations.

There is wide support for a cap on subsidies. Both the House and Senate voted in favor of a strict $275,000 cap when lawmakers debated the 2002 farm bill. In an election-year compromise, House and Senate negotiators raised the ceiling to $360,000 and left loopholes intact.

"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.

-Jim

Originally posted to herooftheday on Sat Mar 12, 2005 at 04:27 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The Tragedy of Our 2004 Defeat (none)
    still haunts us.

    "George W. Bush is not only the worst president in American history, he is the worst man who has been President."--J. Miller

    by Yosef 52 on Sat Mar 12, 2005 at 05:41:28 PM PST

  •  An Important Juxtaposition (none)
    Recommended.
  •  The way out of poverty (none)
    Speaking from personal experience, programs like welfare and food stamps are vital in helping people escape poverty.  

    Cliff notes version: Alcoholic abusive family, dropped out of school, had baby, got married, husband was in accident resulting in body cast - no alternatives for us.

    Welfare gave me $109 a month and my husband $67. The best friends we ever had let us rent a little old three room house on the back of their lot for $85 a month. The $200 in food stamps we got kept my infant son from starving.  Medicaid allowed my husband to be treated for his injuries.

    2 years later, a Pell grant helped me get some education, and eventually a good job.  That was over 30 years ago, and my husband and I and our kids have more than paid back in taxes what the government (the rest of you kind souls whose taxes helped us out) invested in us.

    Not only is it good social policy, it is good fiscal policy to maintain the safety net for people who need a hand up in life.  

    What color are my pajamas? BLUE of course!

    by Jesus was a Liberal on Sat Mar 12, 2005 at 07:06:07 PM PST

    •  Slightly different, still benefited (none)
      Another experience:  Broken family, three children living with hardworking mother, paying live-in babysitter, 1961-1965.  Mom asks for equal pay for equal work, and the boss says "nope.  The guys are raising FAMILIES."

      FUCK traditional values: My mother never did get the equal pay.  We were headed for the streets until she met and married my stepfather, to whom I am eternally grateful.

      On the other hand, I went to a state-supported school at age 16, blasted through an Electrical Engineering degree before age 21, started paying taxes, and am still paying plenty of taxes at age 48.

      Bless Progressive values:  Those who helped me get that low-cost secondary education received a huge return on their investment.

    •  This disgusts me. (none)
      The repubs' biggest accomplishment has been the demonization of every group in this country except their wolfish benefactors, the multi-nationals and agribusinesses. Bush and his self-serving cronies are perfect examples of capitalism run riot. It's  evil because they can look into the face of a hungry child and spit, which is exactly what this legislation means.
  •  "There's fraud in the food stamp program... (none)
    But that $9 billion we, um misplaced in Iraq is um... well, that's just the cost of doing business. BIG business, I might add. Freedom's business. Now run along... nothing to see here.

    Speaking of BIG business, it's the best kind! You get to do whatever you want and there's no one to stop you! The gubmint evens helps you deprive people of everything that constitutes life and liberty! It's great I tell ya...

    What's that? There's MORE money coming to us at the expense of some poor, pitiful starving children? Well, ain't that just too bad?

    Let's starve those poor folks into submission... make an example of 'em. And if that don't work, are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"

    Damn this administration to HELL.

    R

    From the fools gold mouthpiece
    The hollow horn plays wasted words

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