Farm bill cuts benefits, helps polluters

The House of Representatives on June 21 passed the 2018 Farm Bill formally known as the HR2-Agriculture and Nutrition Act. It passed on a vote of 213 to 211, without a single Democratic vote. Congressman John Faso voted in favor of it. He issued a press release that said, “I worked with my colleagues to help craft a farm bill that will help the Upstate Ag. Community, and put our most vulnerable on a path to future success and independence….”

He’s probably referencing the new regulations that will make it harder for low-income people to receive Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Analysts project that if adopted, the new regulations would result in the federal program spending $20 billion less for food for low-income people over the next 10 years. Some 46 million U.S. residents now receive SNAP benefits; if the House bill were to become law, it is estimated that two million recipients would lose their benefits.

Currently people between the ages of 18 and 49 who are not disabled or pregnant are required to work or receive job training for 20 hours a week in order to be eligible. The House bill would change that by increasing the age to 59 and would not exempt single parents who have no children under six. The bill would provide some funding for job training but, critics say, not in all areas of the country, and many in rural areas would not have access to training programs. 

In any case, the Senate is working on its own version of the farm bill, and it does not include the cuts to SNAP. Most analysts say the House bill has virtually no chance of becoming law, and that the two bodies will have to work out a compromise.

Let’s hope the Senators care a little more about the environment than the Republicans in the House, because the House version gives a big gift to the pesticide industry, which is not really surprising since the industry spent $43 million lobbying lawmakers this session.

The Center for Biological Diversity issued a press release that said, “The legislation would also eliminate the requirement that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service analyze a pesticide’s harm to the nation’s 1,800 protected species before the Environmental Protection Agency can approve it for general use. A separate provision would eliminate the Clean Water Act’s requirement that private parties applying pesticides directly into lakes, rivers and streams must first obtain a permit.

“In addition to giveaways to the pesticide industry, HR2 includes a sweeping provision that would gut environmental protections for national forests to expedite logging and mining, including eliminating nearly all protections for old-growth forests in Alaska. The legislation contains nearly 50 separate provisions that would eliminate all public input in land-management decisions provided by the National Environmental Policy Act.”

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is also sounding the alarm about the House legislation. It says, “The bill would prohibit local governments from adopting pesticide laws that are more protective than federal rules. This provision, long a goal of the chemical corporations, would overturn decades of precedent and Supreme Court rulings, and could prevent communities from tailoring laws against harmful chemicals (state and local labeling and packaging requirements already are preempted).”

It further wrote, “Pesticides are engineered to kill. Decades ago, bald eagles and peregrine falcons were brought to brink of extinction by the pesticide DDT; a ban of this pesticide enabled these majestic birds to thrive again. To address such issues, EPA is required under the Endangered Species Act to consult with the expert federal wildlife agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, when approving chemicals that can harm endangered species. The bill eliminates that requirement, threatening endangered wildlife and hindering recovery of imperiled species.”

As noted, the Senate version of the farm bill does not include these environmental rollbacks, and is more bipartisan than the House version. We urge you to contact your senators and encourage them to stand firm against the harmful provisions—to both man and beast—in the House version.

 

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